Dallas Morning News: Vote No to Drastically Reduced Testing in Texas

Dallas Morning News Editorial: Vote No to Drastically Reduced Testing in Texas (March 22, 2013)

The Texas House is poised to retreat on academic rigor. There’s no other way to look at what would happen to our state’s students if the House passes HB 5, which the chamber is scheduled to debate this week. That’s why this newspaper urges a no vote on legislation by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen. For the same reason, we urge a no vote on SB 1724, legislation by Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, which could soon go to the floor.

We have a compromise to offer in place of these bills. But first, here’s why they would be bad for Texas: Both measures would reduce to five the number of end-of-course exams that high school students must pass to graduate. Some change makes sense, but five is a drastic reduction from the 15 current state tests. Another troubling reality is that both bills would test students in only the basics. The Senate would test them in U.S. history, English I and II, algebra I and biology. The House would test them in English II in separate reading and writing exams, biology, algebra I and U.S. history. The biggest omissions? Algebra II and English III wouldn’t be among the exams. In effect, the state would only test students beyond ninth grade in English II. These measures are tied to regressive changes for high school degree plans. Texas previously has drawn national recognition for ramping up its preparation of students for college. These bills would reverse that progress. Gone would be policies that push students to take more challenging courses and reward them for doing so.

For example, the proposed plans wouldn’t require students to take algebra II. They could do so if they want an endorsement on their diploma that shows a math interest. But algebra II would not be mandated. That’s different from the recommended degree plan that most high school students now follow. Major Texas executives warned legislators last week about the harmful effects of these bills. But even more voices of concerned Texans, including those from the fields of science and higher education, are needed to help stop this retreat. At stake is the assurance that students gain the skills for challenging, good-paying jobs. There’s a way out, too.

Here’s the compromise: Legislators could limit end-of-course exams to English II and English III, algebra I and II, geometry, biology and U.S. history. (The English exams would include reading and writing in one test.) That alternative would require fewer tests while still requiring students to pass exams related to rigorous courses to graduate. Texas has come far in creating pathways for students and assessing their progress. Our state must not stumble backward, especially when a sensible alternative exists. Your voice counts.

Concerned about reducing academic accountability? Contact these lawmakers:

Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, 512-463-0684

Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, 512-463-0107

“We will have fewer students college-ready. We will need more developmental or remedial education in ourcolleges and universities. And there will be a decline in the percentage of low-income students and students of color who are college-ready and likely to attend college. We will be less competitive economically with other states and globally.”

Raymund Paredes, Texas Higher Education Commissioner, on the potential impact of the Aycock and Patrick bills