Friday, March 11, 2005

Thanks to all for a very successful statewide Teleconference on High-Stakes Testing

I want to thank all for a very successful statewide Teleconference on high-stakes testing. It was a multi-voiced event that included the views of children, including the powerful views and commentary by eleven-year-old Macario Guajardo and Luz Valenzuela Zamora, my nine-year-old daughter. A second Teleconference with other cities may be in the works, as well as an Austin rally, press conference and lobby day. To receive information on these next steps, please log on to or you may call Representative Dora Olivo’s office directly at 512-463-0494 or toll free at 888-777-0033.

The hard, organizing work was carried out by Josh Cinelli in Representative Olivo’s office, as well as by his wonderful UT-based team, including Florencia Gutierrez, Linda Prieto, Linda Jackson, and Mary Ellen Alsobrook. Thanks as well to our participating sites, University of Texas Health Sciences in Houston with Dr. Linda McNeil from Rice University; University of Texas Pan American with Dr. Francisco Guajardo; and the University of Texas San Antonio site with Drs. Belinda Flores and Ellen Riojas Clark. Thanks also to Al Kauffman who joined us via telephone from Harvard University. Notwithstanding a few glitches, I want to congratulate everybody on excellent teamwork on pulling off what appears to be the first statewide teleconference out of our state capitol.

Our primary intent was twofold: First, to inform the public on Representative Olivo’s legislation addressing high-stakes testing, namely HB 1612 and HB 1613; secondly, to address the subject of the end-of-course (EOC) exams that are contained within House Bill 2 which passed out of the Texas House this week.

HB 1612 addresses high-stakes testing at the third, fifth, and soon, at the eighth grade levels, meaning that you cannot be promoted to the next grade without passing the TAKS exam. The Olivo legislation says that children should be evaluated holistically, using multiple measures (like grades, test score information, teacher recommendation, etc.) that can compensate for poor test performance. (The bills are on her website,

HB 1613 addresses high-stakes testing at the eleventh grade or exit level. That is, currently, high-stakes consequences are attached to the exit test. Specifically, children cannot graduate from high school unless they pass the eleventh grade TAKS exam. Again, the Olivo legislation calls for a holistic assessment of students’ abilities in meriting graduation from high school.

Regarding the 14 additional proposed end-of-course exams (see what these courses are below), Texas LULAC’s position was offered last night as well—as per the critique and analysis of these specific provisions within HB2 appearing below. Collectively, as well, we feel that adding more high-stakes testing to schools is wrong-headed and pedagogically unsound. There is nothing in scholarship on child development or student assessment to suggest that scaring children into learning is good policy. Our own children expressed these views last night.

Feel free to circulate this information. In closing, I wish to underscore that those of us involved do not see the Olivo legislation as Republican or Democrat. It is pro-child and pro-assessment. Our goals are not to support any party, but rather to bring our experiences, knowledge and expertise to the fore in order to promote sound educational policies for children in Texas. Thank you for your interest and support.

Angela Valenzuela

Analysis of the CSHB2 Testing Provisions


Angela Valenzuela, Education Committee Chair
Texas League of United Latin American Citizens
(with assistance from Oscar Cardenas and Anna Alicia Romero, IDRA)
March 8, 2005

A student may not receive course credit unless they perform satisfactorily on the end-of-course (EOC) assessment for the course (actual courses appear at bottom). That is, they have to pass all their EOC tests to obtain course credit.

A student may graduate and receive a diploma only if they 1) pass the TAKS test and pass their EOC exams, or, 2) for special education students, successfully complete an individualized education program.

A school district may issue a certificate of coursework completion to a student who successfully completes or passes the EOC exams (and thusly receives course credit) but who fails to pass the TAKS test.

Finally, student transcripts will indicate whether the student received a diploma or a certificate of completion based on the new end-of-course exam criteria. [Note: The law already differentiates on student transcripts the following: 1) whether the student took the minimum, recommended, or advanced high school program; and 2) whether students receive a certificate of completion based on the regular route of obtaining course credit.]

Administration of end-of-course assessment are to begin no later than the 2008-2009 year. During the transition time, the commissioner may retain TAKS for school and district ratings.

The most positive aspect of the new end-of-course (EOC) testing requirements is that students are able to be assessed on material in the semester that they take the course, rather than being held accountable for material that they took 1 or 2 years prior to the exit exam.

This benefit, however, is effectively neutralized by the fact that students will still have to take the TAKS exam with this built-in problem.

TAKS will be phased out by 2008, but there is no indications whether the EOC process will itself be the substitute or whether the EOC will be used in combination with another state-mandated exam.

Because of the way in which the TAKS exam is beneficial to generating campus and district ratings, there is probably little incentive to eliminate the use of standardized testing via the use of a standardized exam.

The proposed changes place the student in double jeopardy; that is, through additional testing requirements, their chances of not receiving a diploma are substantially increased.

The new end-of-course (EOC) testing requirements are being pursued without studying the effectiveness of the current system.

For students on low-performing campuses, the problem is exacerbated. Under the bill, low-performing campuses could either get closed down or be taken over by private management companies (such as the Edison Project, a for-profit firm) that have no record of success.

This level of extreme state intervention is based on the grossly implausible premise that a level playing field in the quality of personnel and instruction exists across all courses offered in every school and in every classroom in our state.
Proposed End-of-course exams in HB2

(c) The agency shall also adopt end-of-course [secondary exit-level] assessment instruments for secondary-level courses in
Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Integrated Physics and Chemistry, English I, English II, English III, World Geography, World History, United States History, and any other course as determined by rule by the commissioner [designed to be administered to students in grade 11 to assess essential knowledge and skills in mathematics, English language arts, social studies, and science. The mathematics section must include at least Algebra I and geometry with the aid of technology. The English language arts section must include at least English III and must include the assessment of essential knowledge and skills in writing. The social studies section must include early American and United States history. The science section must include at least biology and integrated chemistry and physics.


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