What's Next For Major Proposal To Change Testing, Graduation Plans In Texas Schools

With a unanimous vote in the Senate this week, Texas lawmakers took a huge step to cut back on testing in high school and changing the graduation plans for Texas students. There are still hurdles for the bill to become law — as well as concerns that it won't help all students.

The education bill approved by the Senate would do three main things.

1. It would grade school districts on a scale from A to F instead of rankings like exemplary.

2. It overhauls the graduation plans for high school students.

3. And it reduces the number of high school end of course exams from 15 to five.

For months, parents in Houston and across Texas have been lobbying politicians to scale back testing.

“We know we’re far from the finish line.”

That’s Susan Kellner from Spring Branch. She’s a leader with Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment or TAMSA. She watched the vote this week from the Senate gallery.

“Quite honestly we celebrated that victory quickly and now we’re back onto what’s the next step and what we do need to do to make sure it comes out of conference committee the way we want it and that the governor doesn’t veto it.”

The backlash against testing from parents and educators has driven a lot of the bill.

But the graduation plans are proving to be just as controversial as the testing issue.

This is how state Sen. Dan Patrick, a Republican from Houston, describes the graduation plan to senators in Austin.

“It’s a flex four by four, flex four by four. We’re not taking a step back. We’re taking a step forward.”

That means four years of math and four years of English to graduate.

But there’s flexibility for students to learn career skills and lets some kids skip Algebra II.

State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, a Democrat from San Antonio, offered up several amendments before the final vote.

She’s worried it’s too easy for students to pick the minimum graduation plan instead of trying the college track.

“I want as many students as possible, including those minority students and those rural students, to be able to shoot for the stars. I was seriously concerned with the way this was worded that they wouldn’t even get their foot in the door.”

She pulled her amendment to make it harder for students to opt for the minimum. But she hopes some of it will still make it into the final bill.

Lawmakers have to iron out the differences in the two versions passed by the Senate and the House before a final up or down vote.

 

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...