Texas bill hopes to reform standardized testing

FILE - STAAR test (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - STAAR test (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) — A central Texas lawmaker wants to take the weight off standardized testing in Texas with the Teaching Over Testing Act. The goal is to move the focus of public education away from standardized testing, and back to the classroom.

Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, unveiled House Bill 1333 on Wednesday. He wants to see less emphasis and dependence on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test.

“We have these independent school districts, we need to give them the authority and the dollars for them to go out and source the test themselves, not from one provider. Let’s open up the market, let’s create competition. The prices will decrease,” said Isaac.

The four reforms in the bill include:

  1. Allowing school districts to select alternative test providers
  2. Reducing the number of tests
  3. Removing STAAR scores from teacher evaluations
  4. Reducing the weight of STAAR scores in A-F ratings

So far the bill is receiving bipartisan support, joint-authored by Reps. Rodney Anderson, R-Grand Prairie, Joe Deshotel, D-Beaumont, and Gary VanDeaver, R-New Boston.

Austin ISD mother Hillary Procknow believes the bill is on the right track, but could go even further. Procknow is also director of the Developmental Education Program at UT Austin

“We want to make sure every student is exposed to a meaningful education, high-stakes standardized tests are not that assurance, they don’t accomplish that,” said Procknow.

Procknow likes that the bill reduces the number of tests and takes pressure off teachers. However, her ultimate wish would be to do away with the test completely.

“We’ll all have to face pressure in our lives, this isn’t the place where you do that, especially where as it currently stands it reflects poorly on teachers if you don’t do well,” said Procknow.

Rep. Isaac says while he’s heard that from other parents, they still must comply with federal requirements.

“This is going to take the emphasis and the dollars away from tests and put it in the classroom with our educators and our students, and that’s where it needs to be,” said Isaac.

After a year fraught with STAAR testing problems, the TEA announced in August it was fining Educational Testing Services (ETS) $5.7 million in damages and directing the company to invest another $15 million of its own money toward an action plan that addresses the agency’s concern. The TEA said the company needs to improve its online testing system enrollment, shipping, online testing, precoding and scoring and reporting.

Despite concerns with STAAR, the Texas Association of Business (TAB) believes the testing is necessary to gauge student progress.

“We do not want to alter or change the A-F accountability,” said Miranda Goodsheller with TAB. “Mainly we know that we need something to measure student progress so in the end the goal is to have an educated workforce.”

Rep. Isaac believes the tests still required by his bill will sufficient in keeping track of student progress.

“With 17 tests between 3rd through 12th grade, I think you’re going to have plenty of testing opportunities to find out how students are doing and how they’re prepared,” said Isaac.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) tells KXAN they do not comment on pending legislation. If the bill passes, they say they will do whatever is required to implement the legislation throughout Texas school districts.

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