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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Bonnen Votes to Reduce Testing and Revamp Graduation Requirements

Rep. Bonnen & Rep. Aycock Rep. Bonnen & Rep. Aycock

Vol. 9 No. 6

Today's passage of HB 5 marked the culmination of my ongoing efforts over the past several sessions to reduce public school testing and instill greater flexibility within the current 4x4 curriculum requirements for high school graduation.  I am proud of the bipartisan efforts on the House floor this week that clearly signaled a desire to transcend political bounds for the good of all Texas children, parents, educators, and employers.

I worked with Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, Chairman of the House Public Education Committee, to pass a bill that made sweeping changes to high school testing, curriculum, and performance measures.  First and foremost, HB 5 would reduce the number of end-of-course exams required for graduation from the current 15 to five.  This allows teachers to focus on and spend more time teaching the actual subject material rather than preparing for a test.  Under this bill, end-of-course exams will no longer count as 15 percent of the subject grade.  This change recognizes that some students may not be good test-takers but can still excel in their coursework.

I was one of the very first legislators to speak out against the 4x4 plan when it was first being implemented and I have continued denouncing its rigid class requirements over the years.  It has never allowed adequate flexibility in recognition of the many pathways to success for our high school graduates, especially those who are not college-bound and would more likely excel in a career and technology field.  Under HB 5, each student would strive towards a foundation diploma and select one of five paths to graduation.  These would include arts and humanities, business and industry, multi-discipline studies, public service, and science and math.  Under this revised plan, students would have the ability to choose from greatly expanded course options.

The House was also successful in balancing the need to ensure accountability within our school districts without compromising the education of our students.  HB 5 would establish a broader accountability ratings system that evaluates schools on academic performance (test results) as under the current system, but would also consider financial practices and community engagement.  Rather than ranking schools as "exemplary" and "acceptable," the bill proposes to implement an understandable grading system of A, B, C, D, or F.

I am very proud of the collaborative work done in the Texas House of Representatives to pass such a necessary and common-sense bill.  It is my hope that our counterparts in the Texas Senate will take similar action towards the final passage of this legislation so that students, parents, and educators can focus on the primary goal of preparing the children of Texas for a bright and productive future.