The Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability met in Austin this week for what was originally planned to be its last regular meeting. The May 25 agenda called for commissioners to take the information they have gained from discussions with each other, invited panelists, and public testimony over the last many meetings and turn that into a set of cogent recommendations to be turned over to the legislature in July.
At Wednesday’s meeting, perhaps the most telling exchange of the day was when one commission member commented on how difficult the task of balancing all the competing factors was and one of the legislators present responded, “Yes, education is really complex,” with a bit of a “no kidding, Sherlock” tone in his voice. After hours of discussion with no real progress toward a coherent set of recommendations, it became clear that the committee would need to meet again in June to finish its work ahead of the July deadline.
Some of the issues the commission is grappling with, so far without clear resolution, include the following:
- Should the recommendations be more focused on short term actionable items or mid/long term aspirations or push goals?
- What breadth of coverage should be included in the lower grades? Should the state stick to federal minimums or should writing, social studies, and science be more incorporated?
- Should testing be delivered via technology or not?
- In what way should the state give input on diagnostic testing?
- What, if any, benefit does summative testing have and how do we minimize its intrusiveness?
- In the middle and upper grades, is it feasible or even desirable to incorporate project-based assessment into the state system?
- In the upper grades, should the state stick with end-of-course (EOC) exams or move to a single, more comprehensive test?
- If we move to a different test, which one? Should we move to the SAT or ACT, which colleges use but are also norm-referenced, or perhaps the TSI?
- Again, if we move away from EOCs, should the state also allow for other tests to satisfy requirements, such as the ASFAB, the military’s aptitude test? Would such a test even satisfy federal requirements?
- Should the bar/expectation be set at college readiness for all with an acknowledgement that many will not reach or possibly even seek that bar?
- How will any of this get paid for, especially large technology infrastructure upgrades, particularly in light of the recent school finance ruling and the unlikelihood that the legislature is going to put significant, or any, new resources into the system?
- Even if the legislature does put some new resources into the system, is testing the best place to spend those dollars?
These are some of the things the commission will have to resolve, at least internally, if it hopes to finish moving forward with some sort of recommendation. The commission’s next and likely last regular meeting is now tentatively scheduled for June 13. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates.