Tag Archives: HB 5

Preview of this week’s SBOE meeting

The State Board of Education (SBOE) is meeting in Austin this week, with several hearings scheduled today through Friday, April 11. Many of the agenda items relate to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), the state’s curriculum standards.

Topics for discussion include giving Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff members direction on the creation or potential creation of new TEKS-based courses. These include advanced math courses such as Statistics and Algebraic Reasoning, which have been discussed as options for students to take under new graduation requirements passed by the Legislature last year via House Bill (HB) 5. SBOE will also talk about a possible new course in Mexican American Studies that is being sought by some board members.

The board also plans to update the list of courses that school districts are required to offer students. This list is separate from the list of courses a student must take in order to graduate, although there are many overlaps between the two lists.

Additionally, the SBOE Committee on Instruction will continue its work toward revising the process by which TEKS are adopted or modified.

You can you view streaming video of this week’s meetings of the board and its subcommittees here. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on actions taken by the board.

Recap of House Public Education interim hearing on HB 5

Yesterday, the House Public Education committee heard eight hours of testimony from the public as well as six panels of invited witnesses on the subjects of testing, revising the state curriculum standards (TEKS) and the implementation of last year’s House Bill (HB) 5. The panels included State Board of Education (SBOE) members, Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff, school administrators, teachers and parents.

The committee panels and committee praised HB 5 for beginning to reduce testing in the upper grades, but many testifiers emphasized that testing in grade 3-8 is still burdensome and out of control. Testifiers also pointed out that while the number of tests in the upper grades was reduced, the reliance on those tests within the accountability system has remained unchanged and perhaps even increased.

The committee also spent significant time discussing the problems with the volume and teachability of the current TEKS. The committee and panels discussed the balance between knowledge and skills and questioned whether “supporting” standards should be tested. Committee members asked if it would be possible to prioritize some TEKS over others within specific areas of study. One clear theme was that the structure and amount of the TEKS needs to be studied and likely improved upon.

ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter testified on maintaining rigor while increasing flexibility by focusing on college and career readiness for all students, as opposed to creating a career pathway that is less rigorous and doesn’t prepare students for a full range of options after graduation. ATPE also testified about our efforts to develop innovative ways to address the over-reliance on standardizes testing within the current system. Finally, we praised the committee and the state board for beginning to address the issues of excessive volume and breadth of the TEKS.

Watch an archive of the hearing here: (part 1) (part 2).

House Public Education Committee discusses HB 5 implementation

Today, the House Public Education Committee is meeting to discuss issues related to House Bill (HB) 5, the bill from the 83rd legislative session that made sweeping changes to high school graduation requirements and student testing. The committee’s interim charges being discussed today include monitoring the implementation of HB 5, working to ensure the creation of additional rigorous math and science courses, reviewing the broad scope and breadth of the curriculum standards (TEKS) and considering possible ways to alleviate testing in grades 3-8.

ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter will be testifying at today’s hearing. His comments will focus on the need to maintain college and career readiness, TEKS redesign and the creation of new math courses. You can watch today’s proceedings live or stay tuned for a recap of today’s hearing, which will be posted to this blog.

Vote for candidates who will address standardized testing

This is the third post in our A Dozen Days, A Dozen Ways to Vote Your Profession series.

At issue: Education in the 21st century has been dominated by standardized testing. The enactment of state and federal accountability laws, including the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, resulted in the growth of an entire business industry surrounding tests. Testing and rating schools based on students’ standardized test scores have become the primary mandates in public education. Schools that fail to meet accountability targets tied to test results face harsh sanctions, which exacerbates anxiety around the high-stakes nature of the tests. Many districts have tied teacher pay and bonuses to test results, and now the federal government is insisting on more reliance on test score data in evaluations of teachers and principals.

The overemphasis on standardized testing is a costly problem: The testing explosion has necessitated more government spending on:

  • Developing, field-testing and administering tests.
  • Buying test prep materials.
  • Remediation programs for students who fail the tests.
  • Administering pre-test “benchmark” assessments at the district level.
  • Training for staff.
  • Investigations of testing improprieties.
  • Hiring of additional personnel needed to administer tests, analyze results and create intervention plans based on those results.
  • And so much more.

Over a two-year period, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) spent nearly half a billion dollars on a contract with test vendor Pearson and was criticized in a state audit for not implementing proper quality controls on the contract. Make no mistake: Testing is big business, especially in a state as large as Texas, and the vendors that profit off testing do not hesitate to make large campaign contributions to candidates who will support the policies that keep them in business.

Progress has been made, but more must be done to address the “test, test, test” approach that is still holding our classrooms hostage to standardized assessments: If you read the Survey Response section of the candidate profiles on Teach the Vote, you’ll see that most candidates believe there is still too much emphasis being placed on testing in schools. The 83rd Legislature was forced to answer the outcry from students, parents and educators over too much testing. They passed House Bill (HB) 5, which greatly reduced the number of required state tests at the high school level, but they were not able to alleviate concerns about standardized testing in grades 3–8. A bill to reduce benchmark testing in those lower grades passed the Legislature unanimously, but was vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry. Most incumbent legislators[1] supported another bill that would have allowed some students who achieve satisfactory scores on STAAR tests in certain grades to skip the exams in some other grades; that bill was derailed by conflicting federal regulations. There is still work to be done at both the state and federal levels to alleviate elementary, middle and junior high schools from the intense pressure of relentless testing that interferes with real, high-quality instruction.

Your vote in this primary election will help determine the future of testing in Texas: Let’s elect legislators who will fight for the integrity of classroom instruction and not bow to pressure from big testing companies or the federal government. Search our candidate profiles to see what your candidates have to see about the role of testing. Vote early (through Feb. 28) at any polling location near you, or vote at your assigned polling place on primary election day, March 4. Either way, be sure to vote in this critical primary, since so many election contests will be decided in March rather than in November.

[1] Senators Brian Birdwell and Dan Patrick were the only legislators who voted against HB 866 in 2013. Enter your address in our 2014 Races page to view your incumbents’ profiles and their voting records on testing and other major issues.

SBOE approves new graduation requirements

Today the State Board of Education (SBOE) voted 14-1 on final rules to implement new graduation requirements mandated by last year’s House Bill (HB) 5. Facing pressure from many stakeholders with opposing viewpoints, the board struck a compromise today that ATPE believes will allow ample flexibility for school districts and students while helping ensure that students are prepared for post-secondary success.

At the center of the debate was the treatment of Algebra II, which prior to the passage of HB 5, was a statutorily mandated course for graduation under the Recommended and Advanced high school programs. Through HB 5, the legislature created a single high school graduation plan based on a foundation curriculum plus subject-specific endorsement areas. In doing so, legislators eliminated the specific mandate in statute that Algebra II be taken as the third math course required for graduation. Even though the statutes as amended by HB 5 no longer specify Algebra II as one of the required math courses, state law gives the SBOE authority to adopt additional or more specific graduation requirements beyond what the legislature mandates.

The board decided today that only students pursuing a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) endorsement under the new high school diploma structure should be required to take Algebra II. Students pursuing other endorsements may choose to take Algebra II or another math course from among a short list; that list will soon include two new advanced math classes, algebraic reasoning and statistics, which are currently being developed. The lone dissenting vote today came from SBOE District 1 member Martha Dominguez, who felt that Algebra II was an important factor in students’ college success and should be required for all students.

Education stakeholders also voiced much concern in the recent months of SBOE deliberations about the future of speech courses. While not required by law, the SBOE has required students to earn one-half credit in speech as a graduation requirement since 1996. HB 5 did not address the speech requirement, again leaving the board with discretion to decide whether or not to continue its requirement. The board’s preliminary proposal in November would have eliminated the speech requirement altogether. Recent surveys conducted by ATPE and by SBOE District 9 member Thomas Ratliff showed strong support among educators for continuing a speech requirement at the state level, but several school districts urged the board to eliminate the requirement. SBOE members settled this week on a plan to designate Communications Applications—the primary course used to fulfill the current speech requirement—as one of the courses that can satisfy the fourth-year advanced English course required by HB 5. The speech course will no longer be required, but districts must still ensure that all students master certain communications-related skills.

Read the Texas Education Agency’s press release on the new graduation plan approved today. Also, check out today’s press statement by ATPE State President Ginger Franks in response to the vote.

Interim charges for House committees released

Earlier today, Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus (R–San Antonio) issued interim charges—topics legislative committees are asked to study and report on before the next legislative session begins in January 2015—to the 83rd Legislature.

The charges to the House Public Education Committee are as follows:

1. Monitor the implementation of House Bill 5 (83R) and report on recommendations for improvement. Work with the Texas Education Agency (TEA), the State Board of Education (SBOE), and public and higher education stakeholders to ensure the creation of additional rigorous mathematics and science courses needed to address the current and projected needs of the state’s workforce.

2. Explore innovative, research-based options for improving student achievement beyond standardized test scores. Evaluate standards for effective campus management as well as teacher preparation, certification and training. Review current teacher evaluation tools and instructional methods, such as project-based learning, and recommend any improvements that would promote improved student achievement. Engage stakeholders on how to recruit and retain more of our “best and brightest” into the teaching profession.

3. Solicit input from leading authorities on the traits and characteristics of good governance, effective checks and balances between the board and administration and the effective relationship between a board and the superintendent. Review current oversight authority by TEA over school board policies on governance. Make recommendations on trustee training, potential sanctions and means of grievances, as well as recommendations on whether the role of trustee or superintendent needs to be more clearly defined.

4. Review successful strategies and methods that have improved student achievement at chronically underperforming schools. Identify alternatives that could be offered to current students who are attending these schools and determine how to turn these schools around. Identify the benefits and concerns with alternative governance of underperforming schools.

5. Review the broad scope and breadth of the current Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) in the tested grades, including the format, testing calendar and the limitation on instructional days available. Recommend options to streamline the assessment of TEKS and focus on core concepts. Review current federal testing requirements in grades 3–8 to determine if testing relief is possible.

6. Examine the role of the Harris County Department of Education (HCDE) in serving school districts. Review the programs and services of HCDE, specifically the department’s ability to assist school districts to operate more efficiently. Report any costs or savings the HCDE provides districts and taxpayers. Make recommendations to improve the operation of the HCDE.

7. Review the state regulatory and administrative systems related to public school bond issuances. (Joint charge with the House Committee on Investments and Financial Services.)

8. Study the impact of Senate Bill (SB) 393 (83R) and SB 1114 (83R). Assess the impact of school discipline and school-based policing on referrals to the municipal, justice and juvenile courts, and identify judicial policies or initiatives designed to reduce referrals without having a negative impact on school safety. (Joint charge with the House Committee on Corrections.)

9. Conduct legislative oversight and monitoring of the agencies and programs under the committee’s jurisdiction and the implementation of relevant legislation passed by the 83rd Legislature. In conducting this oversight, the committee should:

a. consider any reforms to state agencies to make them more responsive to Texas taxpayers and citizens;

b. identify issues regarding the agency or its governance that may be appropriate to investigate, improve, remedy or eliminate;

c. determine whether an agency is operating in a transparent and efficient manner; and

d. identify opportunities to streamline programs and services while maintaining the mission of the agency and its programs.

The charges for the House Appropriations Committee include reviewing public education funding formulas. The Appropriations and Pensions Committees will jointly study the fiscal impact of TRS-Care and health care affordability for public school employees.

View the entire packet of House interim charges.

Legislative Update: A busy day in spite of the weather

Icy weather in Central Texas has forced closures of many schools and delayed the start of today’s State Board of Education meeting until noon. The agenda for this week’s SBOE meeting features a final vote on new graduation requirements, including a decision on Algebra II, pursuant to House Bill 5.

Watch the hearings online through the Texas Education Agency (TEA) website. TEA has announced that anyone who intended to testify at today’s hearing today but is unable to travel due to the weather may email written testimony to the board instead (sboesupport@tea.state.tx.us).

Related Teach the Vote content: Read about the SBOE’s preliminary recommendations for the graduation requirements and ATPE’s testimony at the November board meeting, and watch a media interview with ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter about the Algebra II debate.

Today is election day for candidates in the runoff to fill the unexpired term of former Rep. Mark Strama (D–Austin) in House District 50. Democrat Celia Israel and Republican Mike VandeWalle are on the ballot. Some polls are opening later than originally scheduled because of the weather, and voter turnout is likely to be very low. Visit the Travis County Clerk’s Election Division for more information on when and where to vote if you live in HD 50. This is an important race, and there will be plenty of time for you to head to the polls this afternoon after the ice thaws.

Related Teach the Vote content: Visit the 2014 Races page to view profiles of all candidates for legislative and State Board of Education seats on the ballot this year..

Today is the last day to submit public comments via email (rules@tea.state.tx.us) on new teaching standards proposed by the commissioner of education. Commissioner Michael Williams is also scheduled to deliver a keynote speech this afternoon at the TASA Midwinter Conference in Austin.

Related Teach the Vote content: Read background information about the standards and how they were developed.

In Washington, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce has a meeting scheduled this morning for its Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training. The hearing is entitled “Keeping College Within Reach: Sharing Best Practices for Serving Low-Income and First Generation Students.” Watch the live proceedings online.

Legislative Update: School finance, test scores and a special election

The parties in the Texas school finance litigation headed back to court today to discuss changes that might alter District Judge John Dietz’s February 2013 preliminary oral ruling that stated that Texas’ system of paying for public education was unconstitutional.

Dietz has reopened the trial to consider any new evidence that might change his prior conclusion. The state is arguing that additional funds appropriated by the Legislature in 2013, along with changes to graduation and student testing requirements, should put to rest claims that the system is insufficiently funded.

Related Teach the Vote content: Read ATPE Executive Director Gary Godsey’s op-ed on school finance.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) reports an increase in cumulative scores for end-of-course exams. In a press release issued today, the agency says 76 percent of the state’s high school juniors have passed the tests now required under House Bill 5, and that they “are on track to graduate.”

Early voting is taking place this week in the Austin area for a special runoff election to fill the vacant Texas House of Representatives seat of former Rep. Mark Strama (D–Austin) in House District 50. Tuesday, Jan. 28 is the date of the official runoff election.

Related Teach the Vote content: Visit the 2014 Races page to view profiles of all candidates for legislative and State Board of Education seats on the ballot this year.

Interim charges for Senate Education Committee released

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst today released two interim charges for the Senate Education Committee to study this year:

Examine STAAR writing scores for elementary, middle and high school students. For grade levels tested in writing, review the types of writing required. Explore the need for targeted professional development in writing. Review the redesign of high school English EOC exams. For the entire STAAR assessment program, review accommodations available to eligible students as a result of the elimination of the STAAR Modified exam pursuant to changes in federal accountability regulations. Additionally, review the redesign of the STAAR Alternate assessment.

Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Education, 83rd Legislature, Regular and Called Sessions, and make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance and/or complete implementation. Specifically, monitor the following:

  • HB 5, relating to public school accountability, including assessment, and curriculum requirements; providing a criminal penalty;
  • HB 1926, relating to the operation of the state virtual school network and courses provided through other distance learning arrangements;
  • SB 376, relating to breakfast for certain public school students; and
  • HB 617, relating to transition and employment services for public school students enrolled in special education programs.

KVUE interviews ATPE’s Monty Exter on requiring Algebra II for graduation

Austin ABC affiliate KVUE interviewed ATPE lobbyist Monty Exter today regarding State Board of Education proposals to make Algebra II a requirement for high school graduation in Texas. Exter explained ATPE members’ views on the issue as gleaned from recent surveys:

Exter also testified before the SBOE on the issue. (Read a recap of ATPE’s testimony.)