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Thursday, March 02, 2017

Bonnen Co-Authors School Testing Reform

Insider's Report Vol. 11 No. 4

One of my greatest priorities entering each legislative session is to ensure that our education system effectively equips our children for the future.  I have stated repeatedly that our children are being over-tested and our teachers are being hindered from focusing on dynamic and creative classroom teaching.  This is why, since 2013, I have been working to chip away at standardized testing in our public schools.  At that time, I helped lead the effort to pass House Bill 5, a comprehensive education bill that reduced the number of mandated end-of-course tests for high school students from 15 to five.  

This session, I am expanding upon these efforts by co-authoring the "Teaching Over Texas Act" (House Bill 1333).  While it will take a two-pronged approach that includes an act of the federal government to substantially ease testing requirements, Texas can continue its progress on a state level to further reduce the over-emphasis placed on testing.

The State of Texas Assessments of Academic  Readiness (STAAR) requires that students take 22 STAAR exams. This puts immense stress on students and educators. Spending class time preparing for all 22 tests takes time away from our children that could be otherwise used in a specific and tailored way that each teacher decides is best for his or her classroom. Additionally, the $300 million cost of STAAR does not warrant its continued use.  

The "Teaching Over Texas Act" would reduce the weight of STAAR on our schools by introducing four reforms:
 

  • Instill competition among test providers
    • This would allow districts to choose any standardized test that adheres to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills.
  • Reduce the number of exams
    • Students, as required by the federal Every Student Succeeds ACT signed by President Obama, will take 7 reading tests, 7 math tests, and 3 science tests.
  • Remove STAAR from teacher evaluations
    • A TEA survey reported that a majority of Texans "strongly oppose" tying teacher evaluation to test scores.
  • Reduce weight of STAAR in A-F ratings
    • STAAR scores account for 55% of a school's rating. The Teaching Over Texas  Act will reduce STAAR scores to 25%. While there is value to comparing scores, they are only one indicator of educational quality.

I remain committed to the success of our children. I believe that by reducing the burden of standardized testing, they will be better suited to learn the life skills that will guide them down the pathway to success rather than reducing them to just a passing grade on an arbitrary test.