Thursday, February 26, 2015

High-Stakes Accountability in Texas Reconsidered Policy Memorandum by Valenzuela et al. 2015

Dear Students, Friends, and Colleagues:

I write to share this policy memorandum titled, “High-Stakes Accountability in Texas Reconsidered [pdf],” co-authored by Dr. Angela Valenzuela, Wei-Ling Sun, Michael Barnes, and Emily Germain. It is a version of a memorandum presented at the Texas State Capitol on Nov. 18, 2014 in the context of the University of Texas at Austin Texas Center for Education Policy (TCEP) Graduate Seminar. 
The TCEP Graduate Seminar was instituted in the 2014-2015 academic year, to allow professors and graduate students to collaborate on policy briefs and memos related to critical issues facing Texas that get debated and considered in the Texas State Legislature.  I am pleased to say that our brief was in fact taken into consideration months ago as the bill proposal leading to what is now SB 149 was getting developed.  

As my earlier post to the blog this evening on Senate Bill 149 suggests, high-stakes testing and accountability are very much under consideration this legislative session in Texas.  There ARE ways out of this terrible testing conundrum that we have sewn ourselves into.

This memorandum lends some clarity to the policy options before us as a state.  
Additionally, we are working with Education Austin (i.e., the teacher’s union that is AFT and NEA combined) and State Rep. Mary González (D-El Paso), who was recently appointed to the Texas House Public Education Committee.  This involves the development of legislation that calls for a study which could effect a significant shift in assessment in Texas—that is, from a high-stakes to an informational framework in a consortium of schools within select school districts statewide. As a statewide initiative, this legislation would create a "consortia of consortium high schools," if you will, that collectively reflect Texas' demographics statewide.  More specific details shall be forthcoming.

This initiative would first lay the groundwork for a new system of authentic assessments in "study schools" and thereafter lead to the development and implementation of a research-based framework of authentic—including project-based assessment—systems, modeled after the New York Performance Standards Consortium schools.  In a similar vein, we also draw inspiration from a similar effort in certain districts in Kentucky (

 Once it comes out of the Texas Legislative Council (they're a bunch of attorneys that draft bill proposals into bill language) and we have a bill number, we plan to have a press conference at the Texas State Capitol and will post an announcement of that event to this blog.  Fingers crossed that this happens soon.

Special thanks to Texas AFT for their generous sponsorship of our inaugural TCEP Seminar that produced that attached policy memo. Thanks to Ken Zarifis and Montse Garibay of Education Austin for their leadership, as well as Principal Pete Price, head of the AISD

Principal Association.  I am very proud of all of the hard work that we have done on this bill proposal.

Should you have any further questions, ideas, or concerns, feel free to post to this blog.  In the meantime, contact your state representatives and urge them to end high-stakes testing in the state of Texas.  This link tells helps you find who represents you:


Dr. Angela Valenzuela, Director

Texas Center for Education Policy
University of Texas at Austin

"Education is the point at which we  decide whether we love the world enough to  assume responsibility for it."   -Hannah Arendt

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