PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

May 8, 2013

Test-reducing bill passes Senate

AUSTIN — A bill that would reduce the number of high-stakes testing that Texas high school students require to graduate passed the Senate yesterday.

House Bill 5, authored by Joe Deshotel, would lower the number of requisite end-of-course exams from 15 to 5. It would also provide more pathways to higher education by moving away from the “4 by 4” plan and allowing students to concentrate more on the field they wish to enter after graduation.

This news is music to the ears of Texas educators currently in the midst of administering end-of-course exams.

“All administrators were pushing for it,” said Robert Madding, superintendent of Nederland Independent School District. “It’s a great thing for students, because they’re not going to be burdened with numerous exams. I’m for it.”

HB 5 passed the Senate unanimously with a 31-0 vote, Deshotel said, and the House with a vote of 147-3. On Thursday, it will be turned over to a conference committee comprised of five House members appointed by Speaker Joe Straus, and five Senate members appointed by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

“It has quite a bit to go,” Deshotel said.

Together, the Senate and the House added 23 amendments to HB 5, none of which changed the bill significantly.

“The most important parts that I was really concerned with is that they kept the five EOC tests,” Deshotel said. “Both the Senate and House bills have five. We just have to reconcile what those are.”

The House’s tests included English 2 (reading), English 2 (writing), Biology, Algebra 1 and U.S. History. The Senate’s included English 1 and 2, as well as a requirement that students take Algebra 2 and English for diagnostic purposes. The House required 24 credits for graduation, while the Senate required 26.

Another addendum — while the House switched to a rating system of letter grades for districts, the Senate wants to provide letters for only districts and continue to rate individual campuses Exemplary, Recognized, Acceptable or Unacceptable.

“My opinion is that most schools are currently rated Acceptable, which means they would be rated C,” Deshotel said. “I don’t think superintendents like that.”

Deshotel said all the differences will be reconciled in the conference committee, after the House  votes not to concur with the Senate’s amendments. The members of the conference committee will be the authors of the final bill.

“Our biggest fear is that the governor is going to veto it,” Deshotel said. “But the conference committee will probably be working with the governor’s office to make sure we don’t come out with a bill that we know he’s going to veto.”

Deshotel said teachers all across Texas are excited at the prospect of HB 5.

“It’s going to cut the dropout rate and give people some alternatives,” he said. “It’s going to help hundreds of thousands of Texas students.”

Email: ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter: @ErinnPA

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