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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Does accountability system offer path to a career or a track to nowhere?

By Kate Alexander | Tuesday, March 17, 2009, 06:18 PM

The proposed overhaul of Texas’ school accountability system sought to give students different paths that lead to graduation as a way to keep school relevant to all kids and reduce dropouts.

But to some people, those paths are seen as tracks that would direct kids - particularly low-income, minority kids, they say - away from college, according to committee testimony Tuesday.

The identical accountability bills introduced by the education committee leaders in both chambers, Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, and Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, set the goal of “post-secondary readiness,” meaning that high school graduates will be ready for college or a high-skill job.

Students can get different endorsements on their diploma based on the curriculum path they take.

The concern is that the workforce readiness endorsement could be perceived as inferior to the college readiness endorsement. And that label could stick with a student long after high school.

State Rep. Harold Dutton Jr., D-Houston, said this system “stamps this path on a student’s forehead” and “places more students at risk of not having a future.”

But Eissler said the objective was not to track students but to give them the freedom to take courses relevant to their interests and will keep them coming back for more.

Since most jobs will require some college, the workforce-readiness path should be just as rigorous as the college-readiness option, he added.

“I think this is a college enhancement program, not a college limitation program,” Eissler said.

Both the House Public Education Committee and the Senate Education Committee took testimony on the expansive bill Tuesday but did not act. The committee leaders said they would come back with a new version of the bill soon based on comments from the public.

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