Legislative Update

Yesterday was a big day in educational news from Austin. I received an email from our Senator, Robert Nichols, concerning the 15% rule and Representative Jimmie Don Aycock filed a bill that overhauls graduation requirements for high school students.

Here is the text from the email received from Senator Nichols:

This afternoon, the Senate passed an amended version of SB
135: relating to the use of a public school student’s performance on an
end-of-course assessment instrument in determining the student’s final grade
for the course. Senator Van de Putte added an amendment that strikes from law
“that each school district shall adopt a policy that requires a student’s
performance on the end-of-course assessment instrument to account for 15
percent of the student’s final grade for the course.” The bill passed
unanimously and now is being sent to the House for a vote.

Below is a summary of the bill filed by Representative Aycock. The summary comes from the Texas Association of School Boards:

House Public Education Committee
Chair Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen) announced that he will be filing an omnibus bill, House Bill 5, that promises significant changes to graduation requirements, student assessments and school accountability laws.

 Read a summary of the bill as provided by Chairman Aycock.

 “Representative Jimmie Don Aycock’s unveiling of House Bill 5 comes at a critical time for school districts,” said Catherine Clark, associate executive director for TASB Governmental Relations. “With our students and schools caught in the accountability limbo that is the turbulent implementation of STAAR, school leaders are looking to the
legislature to provide leadership on this issue.”

 Similar to Sen. Kel Seliger’s Senate Bill 225, HB 5 would create one foundational degree on which students may earn endorsements in certain fields. Aycock’s bill would include endorsements in STEM, business and industry, public services, and arts and humanities.

 “The bill provides a framework that will help high school students graduate ready for college and careers and recognizes the inherent gifts of our students by providing multiple pathways to graduation,” Clark said.

 HB 5 would also:

  • allow districts to partner with community colleges and industry to develop
    rigorous courses that address workforce needs, provide technical training
    and count towards graduation;
  • eliminate the requirement that all students must pass Algebra II and ELA III to
    receive a high school diploma;
  • eliminate the 15% rule;
  • grant current ninth and tenth grade students the benefits of the new structure;
    and
  • allow all high school graduates to be eligible for automatic admission to Texas
    public four-year universities because all student graduate under the same
    diploma.

In terms of assessments and accountability, HB 5 reduces the number of end-of-course assessments required for graduation from 15 to five: Algebra I, biology, U.S. history and English II (reading and writing). The bill also would eliminate the cumulative score
requirement for end-of-course exams and would allow satisfactory performance on
Advanced Placement, SAT and ACT exams to satisfy graduation requirements.

 “Representative Aycock’s bill reduces overreliance on standardized tests, allowing teachers to focus on educating their students while using assessments to determine how best to help children move forward as opposed to the current system that uses assessments to hold children back,” Clark said.

Aycock noted that this bill is far from complete.

 “This is not a bill final. This is a starting point for discussion, and for a broad discussion, on many of these issues,” Aycock said. “I think we have picked a starting point for the discussion. And I have no doubt we’ll be hearing from people who will advocate for more testing and people who would advocate for less. That’s part of the process.”

 HB 5 would do away with the current accountability ratings and institute an A-F system that takes into account academic performance, financial performance, and community and student engagement.

 All members of the House Public Education Committee have signed onto the bill as co-authors.

 “Overall, the bill reduces reliance on state tests at the same time that it holds students, schools, and districts accountable with a system that takes into account educational performance, financial performance, and student and community engagement,” Clark continued. “Representative Aycock’s bill is an excellent step forward.”

I believe that both of these bills are positive indications that our elected officials are listenting to the concerns of parents and educators and are trying to make the necessary adjustments in our testing and accountability system. Further updates will follow.

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