Major Testing Bill To Hit Texas House Floor

Allison, Thomas and Abigail Shackelford
Over the past year there has been a major debate over testing in schools. Parents and school boards have weighed in on the topic. Today state lawmakers will debate a key piece of legislation that could roll back testing in Texas.

Like a lot of kids, fourth grader Abigail Shackelford isn’t a fan of tests. She’s working on homework at her house in East Houston.

“Not really. Because it takes most of your time doing other fun activities.”

Her brother Thomas is in second grade and has his own opinion.

“I like taking tests. I just like if I get the score back on time and I see if I get an A, B, C or D. But I wouldn’t like the test if I got an F.”

Regardless if her kids like it or not, Terrian Shackelford wants all four of her children to take standardized tests.

“I see myself as a parent who believes in testing, who is for testing, but do believe that Austin will have to make some changes to the testing. But I do think the testing is needed and it is very valuable.”

She believes tests — and all the test data — are powerful tools so parents know how their kids are doing in school.

But others think testing has gone too far like Karen Peck. She’s a mom with the group Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment or TAMSA.

“It just turns our schools into these test-taking factories. Some school districts say they spend up to 45 days of the school year on testing.”

Lobbying from parents is one reason testing policy is at a critical point in Texas.

This week both the House and the Senate are expected to take up bills that would change testing in schools.  

For example, House Bill 5 would reduce the number of end of course exams in high schools from 15 to 5.

“I think that is exactly the wrong prescription.”

That’s Don McAdams. He was on the board of the Houston Independent School District in the 1990s when Texas ramped up testing.

He says there’s a reason for that – kids in the U.S. were trailing kids in other countries.

“And in the early 90s, Texas business leaders particularly working hard with state legislators developed standards and assessments and accountability systems so that the public would know whether or not the children were learning.”

That long history of testing in Texas cuts both ways.

Bob Schaeffer is with the advocacy group FairTest.

“Texas has the longest experience with the damage done to educational quality and equity by high stakes testing, so it make sense that would be the first place where people would say enough is enough.”

People on both sides of the issue agree on one thing.

If Texas rolls back testing, other states are likely to follow.

 

Bio photo of Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for KUHF, including K-12 and higher education.

Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and regularly contributed to WLRN, the local NPR affiliate and Miami Herald news partner...