Across the Lawn – May 12, 2023

May 12, 2023  

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Raise Your Hand Texas has a front-row seat to the Capitol. From our vantage point, public education policy issues have never been more important, and this is why we must make every session a public education session.

Two Things to Do:

Push Back Against Vouchers

As the session enters its final weeks, negotiations between lawmakers become increasingly intense. With the voucher fight coming to a critical moment, we are taking the unusual step of recommending two advocacy actions this week: 

  • Participate in our voucher call to action to tell the House to oppose all vouchers. Then, post the link on social media and share it with five people in your network who also care about public education.
  • Submit a public comment on SB 8, the voucher legislation that will be heard in the House Public Education Committee on Monday. Because the hearing will be for invited testimony only, submitting a public comment is the only way to ensure that a full range of voices becomes part of the public record on this bill. 

Four Things to Know:

1. House Public Education Committee to Hear Voucher and Assessment Legislation Monday, May 15 at 8:00 a.m.

The House Public Education Committee is scheduled to hear the House committee substitute for SB 8 (vouchers) on Monday, May 15 at 8:00 a.m. This public hearing will include invited testimony only. The announcement of this public hearing comes after the House voted not to suspend the rules Wednesday night after a vote of 76-65,  which would have allowed the committee to hold a formal meeting without any public testimony. 

2. Proposed House Substitute for SB 8 Voucher Bill Does Not “Get Rid of STAAR” or “Reduce Testing”

With the permission of the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA), Raise Your Hand Texas would like to post TASA’s summary and analysis of the House committee substitute for SB 8.  

The House committee substitute for the SB 8 voucher bill is 80 pages in length and has not been vetted with testimony through the House Public Education Committee. One misconception about the substitute language is that it gets rid of the STAAR and reduces testing. This is not true. Please see the points below, which explain the bill’s new testing requirements. 

Short History of Texas Assessment

  • SB 103 in 1999 established an 11th-grade exit-level exam, which was not effective because it assessed material long after students learned it. 
  • SB 1031 in 2007 replaced exit-level exams with end-of-course (EOC) exams. TEA implemented the law as 15 separate EOC exams that students had to pass to graduate. 
  • Texas mothers protested the excessive amount of testing and established Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment (TAMSA), leading to critical improvements in the state assessment system with the adoption of HB 5 in 2013. It reduced the number of EOC exams from 15 to five. 
  • In 2019, the Senate substitute for HB 3906 required an all-online state assessment, which was implemented this year. 

The testing provisions in the House substitute for SB 8 do the following: 

  • Maintain the STAAR provisions for students in grades 3-8, minus the eighth-grade social studies exam
  • Add three testing events for grades 3-8 STAAR with mandatory through-year testing unless otherwise provided by commissioner rule
  • Add an 11th-grade exam covering ELA and math
  • Increase the number of high school exams from five to six (biology and U.S. History content-specific exams, the 9th and 11th grade ELA and math TSIA exams) 
  • Add more testing for 11th-grade students who are also taking additional college entrance exams 
  • Raise the stakes of the already high-stakes A-F accountability system only for ISDs, not for the private schools that voucher recipients will attend (as private schools are not subject to state ratings)
  • Provide that high school EOC exams won’t be required for graduation 
  • Provide that new TSIA exams will be required for college course placement – and TEA, rather than the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, will determine which exam and score is appropriate for determining if a college freshman must take developmental education
  • Make a long-term impact on a student’s future with this required-placement consequence and could create more negative consequences than the current requirement to pass five EOC exams. Students still would be able to avoid this consequence with high enough scores on ACT or SAT under Education Code Chapter 51. 
  • Limit retakes to only after high school graduation, even though students make college-attendance decisions before graduation
  • Lack a thought-out transition plan or timeline for students
  • Remove all State Board of Education involvement in the state assessment program 

3. HB 4402 by Rep. Bell Revamping School A-F Accountability System Passes House

The House passed HB 4402 by Rep. Bell with a vote of 128-17 on Tuesday. The bill now heads to the Senate with the following provisions:  

  • Adds three new K-12 non-test indicators to the Student Achievement Domain: extra & co-curricular student success, middle school CTE coursework, and middle school accelerated math 
  • For grades 3-8 limits STAAR to no more than 80% and the new indicators to no more than 20% of the weight of the domain score 
  • Formalizes Through-Year Assessments to begin in 2027-28
  • Allows ISDs to order paper tests for up to 3% of student enrollment 
  • Creates grants for the development of local accountability systems 
  • Creates extra & co-curricular BA allotment with a weight of 0.003 
  • Adds JROTC as CTE program
  • Adds writing portfolio as an alternative to English I and II EOCs
  • Commissioner CCMR scale and raw score rule transition for 2022 and 2023 ratings

4. Voucher Provisions in Committee Substitute for SB 8 Still Harm Public Schools

With an initial price tag of $800 million, the voucher provisions in the committee substitute for SB 8 will balloon to billions of dollars in the coming years. This funding should not be directed to private schools or vendors with little to no accountability, but instead to our public schools that have faced double-digit inflation, teacher retention issues, and other programmatic needs. 

The committee substitute provides $9,000 for a child who was educationally disadvantaged, or $7,500 for a child not defined as educationally disadvantaged. An additional amount will be provided for students who were enrolled in a special education program. As drafted, there is no longer a $10,000 per-student “hold harmless” provision for public schools with fewer than 20,000 students.  

Tags: Assessment & Accountability education savings accounts vouchers
Categories: Articles

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