Lawmakers Consider Changes to School Accountability System

People across Texas are testifying to lawmakers about the state's public school accountability system. A legislative committee came to Houston to hear what people in this area suggest should be done to improve accountability standards. Laurie Johnson has more.
Several dozen people gathered for an hours-long meeting on what changes might benefit the accountability system.

The Select Committee on Public School Accountability is made up of Texas lawmakers and community members, including Sandy Kress who helped draft the No Child Left Behind policies.

Kress says accountability is not intended to be a burden on schools.

"I want to be sure we're thinking about accountability in the context of getting youngsters to the knowledge and skills they absolutely need."

Kress and other members of the committee were in Houston to hear from experts, teachers and the public about what works and what doesn't when it comes to accountability.

Wanda Bamberg is the superintendent of Aldine Independent School District. She says districts need to move away from teaching to the test.

"Because if I teach the whole third grade curriculum and they master it, they're going to do better in fifth grade and they're going to be ready for algebra. But if I'm only focusing on what's tested every year, then I'm not going to have the depth and understanding of those skills when it's time to apply it and go into algebra."

Bamberg told the committee Texas' current accountability system puts too much emphasis on test scores.

Richard Marquez agrees with her. He's the CEO of America Can!, a charter school system. He says the state needs to do a better job working with alternative schools and dropouts.

"Check me on who you give me, and check me on what I do with them. And check me to see if I keep them in school and off the streets and out of people's homes more often than anything else. An alternative school system is designed to be safety net for children not to leave the regular school system."

Marquez's comments prompted applause from several dozen people in the audience.

"There are no new ways of teaching children, folks. There are no new ways, there are no new pedagogical approaches and everybody's looking at brain research and everything else. I'm sorry, it just takes good old-fashioned hard work, but it takes time and effort."

The Texas Legislature will use the collected testimony when they make decisions about the accountability system in the upcoming session.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF- Houston Public Radio News.
Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...