Wednesday, May 27, 2009

School leaders urge moving forward on accountability

While HB 3 does include multiple criteria assessment in grades 3, 5, and 8, it increases the stakes attached to testing at the high school level. Not only do the tests account for 15% of course grades but students are still required to pass end-of-course exams to receive a high school diploma. Failure to pass either two if the HB prevails, or up to 8 according to the SB would deny students a HS diploma. The multiple criteria does not apply at this level.

Interventions and sanctions in both bills are no less punitive as the reform would create a three tier system: acceptable, warned, and probation. The SB also adds language that would seek to expose and attribute downward trends in test performance over three years to the promotion of students and can consequently reduce a school's accreditation. So somehow the authors of SB 3 seem to think that they can find causality between promotion and declining test scores.

We'll see how things play out in conference.


By Kate Alexander | Statesman
Tuesday, May 26, 2009, 12:45 PM

Addressing the veto specter surrounding the school accountability bill, school leaders said Tuesday the worst thing that could happen for students is nothing at all.

“My concern is that we do nothing,” said Salem Abraham, president of the Canadian ISD Board of Trustees and member of the interim committee that examined the accountability system.

“I’m hopeful that we wouldn’t do all this work and take all this public input and in the end have this thing vetoed,” Abraham said on a conference call organized by several school groups.

Gov. Rick Perry has indicated that he is displeased with the direction of the school accountability bill, particularly a change in the rules for promoting kids the next grade even if they fail the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.

Current law prohibits “social promotion” for third-graders, fifth-graders and eighth-graders who do not pass certain tests. But in practice, most of those students do get moved along to the next grade by a panel of teachers, principals and the parents.

A veto would leave in place the current law that many say is too punitive and puts too much focus on a single test.

The companion bills crafted by education leaders in the House and Senate lessen the focus on high-stakes testing in the lower grades and return the grade promotion decision back to schools. Those bills were developed in light of the public testimony in hearings across the state last summer.

As conferees hammer out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, Spring Branch Superintendent Duncan Klussmann said they face a decision between staying on the path recommended by the interim select committee or moving away from those recommendations.

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