Pro: More tests provide way to assess achievement
Some measurement is needed to assess student achievement, say proponents of maintaining the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness exams.
Texas House Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, voted against HB 5 when it was presented to the House floor in late March.
He was one of two representatives who voted against the bill, which has now been passed on to the Senate Education Committee. The final vote was 147 to 2.
"Testing each subject only once in high school makes it impossible to measure student growth year over year and rewards and punishes schools too heavily for what happens outside their doors, not inside them," Strama wrote.
The representative characterizes the proposed ease in accountability as something that would benefit the state more so than the students.
"We should be discussing measures that would enable more Texas students to meet high standards - resources for early childhood, extended learning time, technology and teachers," Strama wrote. "I am saddened that instead we are discussing measures that will ease the pressure on the Legislature to provide resources for each child to reach his or her full potential."
Under the reduction proposed in HB 5, STAAR exams for Algebra I, Biology, English II reading and writing and U.S. History would be the five exams required to pass for a student to graduate from high school.
A student would, however, maintain the ability to opt in and take state assessments for Algebra II and English III reading and writing.
The number of exams should remain at 15, said Don McAdams, founder and retired chairman of the Center for Reform of School Systems based in Houston.
STAAR scores should be made public information by district and school but not by instructor, McAdams said.
"It would be a big mistake for Texas to stop taking these exams," McAdams said. "We'd have no measurement and no tool for the taxpayer to know how their money is being spent. If it puts more pressure on the teachers to teach to a higher standard, good. What's the problem with that?"
Victoria school district President Tami Keeling said she supports the reduction of exams but also believes the state accreditation system should be based on achievement, a sentiment echoed by both Strama and McAdams.
"It would more accurately reflect whether or not a student is gaining knowledge," Keeling said. "Let's say you look at a student April 1, 2012, and look at that same student April 1, 2013, and if that test shows they have gained knowledge, then learning is taking place."