Plan adds flex­i­bil­ity, but is still test-heavy

Test­ing

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - A

2009 law that es­tab­lished the State of Texas As­sess­ments of Aca­demic Readi­ness, or STAAR.

Ham­mond, whose group rep­re­sents many of the state’s largest em­ploy­ers, was joined by lead­ers from the Texas Busi­ness Lead­er­ship Coun­cil, which is a group of top cor­po­rate ex­ec­u­tives from across the state, and the Texas In­sti­tute for Ed­u­ca­tion Re­form.

The groups have con­sis­tently op­posed any sig­nif­i­cant changes to the test­ing and accountability sys­tem. Last sum­mer, they vowed to use their con­sid­er­able po­lit­i­cal clout to op­pose any in­crease in pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing if ef­forts to roll back the sys­tem went for­ward.

But op­po­si­tion to STAAR has been build­ing for about a year among par­ents whose ninth­grade chil­dren last spring were the first to take the more rig­or­ous and con­se­quen­tial end-of-course ex­ams. In re­cent months, other busi­ness in­ter­ests have be­gun to mo­bi­lize an ef­fort to loosen the grad­u­a­tion re­quire­ments and give more op­tions to stu­dents not headed to col­lege.

Ham­mond said the pro­posal is a recog­ni­tion of that chang­ing po­lit­i­cal re­al­ity. But it got a cool re­cep­tion from all sides af­ter its re­lease Wed­nes­day.

Some said the plan was still too re­liant on stan­dard­ized tests, while oth­ers said it un­der­mines the ob­jec­tive of en­sur­ing stu­dents are ready for col­lege or good jobs upon grad­u­a­tion.

“A tran­si­tion from 15 to 13 end-of-course ex­ams is hardly re­duc­ing the high-stakes na­ture of the cur­rent test­ing sys­tem that par­ents, educators, busi­ness lead­ers and some leg­is­la­tors are clam­or­ing for,” said Suzanne Marchman, a spokes­woman for the Texas As­so­ci­a­tion of School Ad­min­is­tra­tors.

A par­ents’ group, Tex­ans Ad­vo­cat­ing for Mean­ing­ful Stu­dent As­sess­ment, echoed that sen­ti­ment.

Texas Work­force Com­mis­sioner Tom Pauken, who has an­nounced that he is leav­ing that po­si­tion, said the new plan failed to “clear away the state’s reg­u­la­tory strait­jacket that hin­ders a mul­ti­ple path­way ap­proach to a high school di­ploma.”

Mean­while, Drew Scheberle of the Greater Austin Cham­ber of Com­merce said the pro­posal wa­ters down the test­ing and accountability sys­tem too much and amounts to a “po­lit­i­cally de­rived, made-up stan­dard.”

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