Tag Archives: HB5

House committees look at student ticketing, math courses and testing

The House Committee on Public Education met twice this week to review the implementation of several bills passed last year. The first was a joint hearing with the House Committee on Corrections to discuss school discipline and the implementation of Senate Bills (SB) 393 and 1114 related to student ticketing. In a separate meeting, the education committee had ongoing discussions about the implementation of House Bill (HB) 5, the bill that made sweeping changes to the state’s graduation requirements and testing requirements.

SB 393 and SB 1114 were passed in 2013 in an attempt to reduce the issuance of criminal tickets to students for minor school offenses. This week’s joint committee meeting revealed that since the implementation of those bills in September of last year, the number of court filings resulting from the issuance of class C misdemeanor tickets for school offenses has dropped by 90,000. That number represents an 83 percent decrease. During the same period, the number of school arrests, suspensions and referrals to alternative campuses has remained stable or decreased slightly. According to testimony at the hearing, this suggests that the drop in student ticketing has not had a negative impact on the campus environment with regard to discipline.

While SB 393 and SB 1114 did not cut off the ability to use the criminal justice system as a deterrent and tool to maintain school discipline, the goal of the bills was to decriminalize school offenses in most situations. Advocates on all side of this issue want to reduce the school-to-prison pipeline, and in doing so, ATPE also wants to ensure that educators feel supported and in fact are supported in their efforts to maintain discipline in their classrooms.

We want to know what you think about student ticketing. Please post your comments on our blog and let us know what your experience has been at the campus level since the passage of SB 393 and SB 1114.

During the subsequent meeting on Oct. 8, the House Committee on Public Education heard from Texas Education Agency (TEA) officials and experts about new courses being developed in response to HB 5 to serve as equivalently rigorous alternatives to Algebra II. According to testimony at the hearing, the new Non-AP Statistics course being developed is on track to be completed soon. The Algebraic Reasoning course is proving to be more difficult. Many advocates of that course, including some legislators, envision Algebraic Reasoning as an applications-style course for Algebra II. However, that type of course is proving more challenging to develop because any course based on the existing Algebra II TEKS that would require a teacher to use applications would likely cross the line into specifying a method of teaching, which is illegal in Texas.

Despite the difficulties, Dr. Uri Treisman of the University of Texas’ Dana Center, a mathematics think tank, applauded the state on the efforts being made and informed the committee that what they are striving for is in alignment with where higher education has been moving. According to Dr. Treisman, institutions of higher education have for several years been moving away from a single college math pathway based on Algebra, favoring multiple pathways instead. Such pathways include the traditional Algebra route as well as pathways based on Statistics and Quantitative Modeling.

In addition to the receiving the update on new math courses, committee members raised several questions about the state’s testing and accountability system. The committee voiced considerable concern about the removal of the STAAR Modified test and the impact of that change on schools and students with disabilities. TEA representatives also caused a stir among the committee when they relayed that TEA had kicked out sample STAAR test items based on the percentage of students who answered the question correctly. According to TEA, if more than 90-95 percent or less than 25 percent of tests takers answered an item correctly, it was removed. The committee noted that it seemed patently unfair to remove a question that tested basic TEKS merely because all or nearly all students answered the question correctly. A public witness who testified later during the hearing noted that by removing questions in that manner, TEA had essentially converted what was supposed to be a criterion-referenced assessment into a normative assessment. Many education experts believe that normative assessments should never be used for high stakes or accountability purposes.

At one point during the hearing, Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Humble) announced that he was seriously considering filing a bill in the next session to do away with state-mandated standardized testing altogether. A representative of Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment (TAMSA) shared with the committee that more than 35 states do not use standardized testing as a graduation requirement and implored the committee to consider changing state law to make any statewide testing system diagnostic only. ATPE member Cynthia Ruiz, an English teacher from Pflugerville ISD, eloquently testified about the problem of teaching to the test and the failings of the STAAR writing test. Several committee members thanked her for her testimony.

Video of the Joint Committee hearing on school discipline and student ticketing can be viewed here. Video of the House Public Education Committee’s HB 5 hearing can be viewed here.

Report on Senate Education Committee’s interim hearing on testing and virtual schools

The Senate Education Committee met Aug. 26 to discuss two of its interim charges:

Senate Interim Charge #1 (Portion of Charge):

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.

Senate Interim Charge #2:

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, SB 376, HB 617 and HB 1926.

The Committee heard from multiple panels as well as Commissioner of Education Michael Williams.

HB 5 and the STAAR writing test

The Committee heard testimony from a panel including Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff and educators about challenges involving the STAAR writing test as well as testimony from a separate panel and Commissioner Williams on STAAR cut scores.

Dr. Dawson Orr, the superintendent of Highland Park ISD, presented testimony that the STAAR writing test is seriously flawed, particularly in comparisons to instruments such as the ACT. He informed the committee that the writing curriculum standards (TEKS) are good, but the writing test does not capture the learning associated with those TEKS. Additionally, he pointed out that institutions of higher education are not looking for and do not care about the skills tested by the STAAR writing test. According to the witness, a 26-line formulaic writing test simply does not give us good information, and in some districts, may cause kids to learn to write poorly.

Commissioner Williams engaged in a conversation with the committee on the STAAR cut scores and the effectiveness of the testing regime generally. When pressed by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D–San Antonio) on the failures of the STAAR test, the Commissioner blamed the state’s failure to make more rapid gains on poor instruction. Many in the room equated his statements to shift blame from a poorly designed and administered test to educators. However, as one education representative noted, poor teaching would result in equally poor results across all test instruments gauging college readiness, which does not appear to be the case for students in many situations who are successful on other standardized and non-standardized measures of academic achievement.

SB 376

Senate Bill 376 by Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D–Brownsville) expanded the School Breakfast Program for campuses where 80 percent or more of the student population qualifies for federal free or reduced breakfast. Under the bill, campuses meeting the 80 percent threshold must provide breakfast to 100 percent of the students at the campus, as opposed to only students who would otherwise qualify for free and reduced breakfast on their own. Despite the fact that the bill was cost-neutral to the state and school districts thanks to federal dollars, districts have the ability to opt out of the program by requesting a waiver. Of the approximately 2,600 campuses to which the bill applies, only 38 have requested a waiver.

HB 617

The committee heard testimony on the implementation of House Bill 617 by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D–Austin) which expands transition services for students with disabilities entering the workforce or a higher education setting. As a result of the bill, a transitions guide will be developed.

HB 1926

House Bill 1926 by Rep. Ken King (R–Canadian) made several modifications to the Texas Virtual School Network (TxVSN), which regulates both full-time virtual learning providers and the individual virtual course catalog.

A major amendment added to the bill by Sen. Van de Putte calls for a statewide broadband study of ISDs to determine the state’s technology and connectivity capacity. A TEA representative testified to the committee that the study should begin mid- to late September of this year and be concluded in November with results available mid- to late spring of next year.

TEA staff also reported to the committee that rules codifying the statutory requirements for HB 1926 have been adopted by the agency. In addition to new rules, there is a new design for the online portal to the TxVSN statewide catalog and new informed choice reports called for as a component of the legislation.

Additional public testimony was taken on both sides of the often contentious issue of virtual learning. A representative from iNACOL (a national association of virtual providers) voiced a complaint about the restriction on districts being required to offer students a virtual course that is substantially similar to a traditional, non-virtual one already offered by the ISD. Another testifier with the Foundation for Educational Excellence asked to consider taking quality control out of the hands of the districts and to increase the level of funding going to for-profit course providers. A representative from the Coalition for Public Schools (CPS) testified that control and accountability of the online learning environment should remain with districts that are accountable to taxpayers as opposed to private providers that are accountable only to their shareholders. The testifier also pointed out that while the coalition does not oppose the existence or limited use of online learning, a significant body of research points to it being a far less effective method of teaching kids.

All or part of the committee hearing can be found at the Texas Senate video archive under Senate Committee on Education 8/26/14.

TEA releases 2014 STAAR sample tests

Thanks to ATPE-supported language originally filed by former Texas House member Mark Strama (D–Austin) and later amended into House Bill 5, authored by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R–Killeen), the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has released more than 40 of the 2014 STAAR tests and answer keys.

The tests and answer keys can be found at: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/student.assessment/staar/testquestions/

Educators share testing concerns with Senate Education committee

The Senate Education Committee met yesterday in an interim hearing to review two charges:

  • The high school English Language Arts and STAAR Alternate testing requirements.
  • The implementation of House Bill (HB) 5.

Five panels of invited expert witnesses testified before the committee, including Texas Education Agency (TEA) officials, teachers, counselors, PTA members and other education stakeholders.Those that spoke laid out many concerns about testing and some unintended consequences of HB 5, such as an English test in high school that lasts up to five hours and the physical endurance it takes students to concentrate for that time period.

The committee also heard from special education stakeholders who laid out problems with the new STAAR Alt tests and the elimination of the STAAR Modified tests, citing negative effects on some special education students. ATPE Past State President Cheryl Buchanan and Laura Buxkemper, who is also an ATPE member and special education teacher, both traveled from Ballinger ISD to testify at yesterday’s hearing about their concerns regarding STAAR Alt.

Yesterday’s committee meeting was also different insofar as one-third of the legislators who showed up for the meeting are currently running for state office, a fact which added some political drama to the day’s proceedings. An archived video of the meeting can be viewed here.

Buxkemper Haley Buchanan 04-14-14

Ballinger ATPE member Laura Buxkemper, ATPE contract lobbyist and former Sen. Bill Haley and ATPE Past State President Cheryl Buchanan at the Texas State Capitol

Senate Education committee to discuss testing

The Senate Education committee has an interim hearing scheduled for Monday, April 14. Its agenda includes discussion of two interim charges related to student testing.

The first charge covers the redesign of high school English EOC exams, issues related to the federally-mandated elimination of the STAAR Modified exam and the redesign of the STAAR Alternate assessment. The committee’s second interim charge that will be discussed Monday is to monitor the implementation of last year’s comprehensive testing and curriculum reform bill, House Bill 5.

View the hearing live starting at 10 am via the web broadcast.

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.

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.)