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The Texas House Committee on Public Education met August 9, 2022, to discuss two interim charges related to the state’s public school assessment and accountability systems.

Implementation of HB 3906

Interim Charge One: HB 3906 (86R), relating to the assessment of public school students, including the development and administration of assessment instruments, and technology permitted for use by students.

Commissioner of Education Mike Morath described the different types of state tests (STAAR as a summative assessment, etc.) and explained the changes called for in HB 3906 that led to the STAAR redesign. He shared potential options for next steps, including: keep with formative and interim assessment systems as optional – stay the course; upgrade research and design work to do an item level analysis like Florida and Nebraska do, at an approximate cost of an additional $24 million per year; or make a multi-stage adaptive assessment a permanent operational test (also costly).

Dumas ISD district testing coordinator Nikole Foote discussed the HB 3906 pilot program in which her district is participating and expressed appreciation for the data the district will receive as a result. Pflugerville ISD teacher Jean Chambers described her favorable experience as part of an educator committee reviewing STAAR items and writing new item types during the STAAR redesign process. Socorro ISD teacher Julietta Arredondo discussed her experience and participation in various committees as part of the STAAR redesign process. She said that new test items are more reflective of classroom teaching practices.

2016 Commission on Next Generation Assessments & Accountability

Interim Charge Two: Study the unfulfilled recommendations from the 2016 Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability. Evaluate the state’s progress on assessments and accountability and consider possible legislation to support the recommendations from the report. Study and recommend measures needed at the state level to prevent unintended consequences to students, campuses, and districts, including changes that could improve the system for students or help public schools serving a disproportionate number of educationally disadvantaged students impacted by the pandemic.

Texas 2036 President and CEO Margaret Spellings provided testimony advocating for the state’s “cutting edge” assessment and accountability system, while also sharing doubts about community-based measures of accountability. Commit Partnership policy director Kate Greer also testified in favor of the A-F rating system, saying that it helps stakeholders make informed decisions (such as a parent deciding which campus they want their child to attend). Greer said that regardless of poverty status, students perform better at A-rated campuses.

Channelview ISD Superintendent Dr. Tory Hill testified about the importance of “assessment literacy,” meaning a teacher’s ability to incorporate and utilize multiple modes of assessment. He said that STAAR has a purpose, but the daily or formative assessments in the classroom are the real drivers of student achievement. Hill also discussed three aspects of the STAAR redesign that are beneficial to students, saying the redesign: promotes a focus on rigor that prepares students for post-secondary education, especially the writing component; aligns more closely to state standards; and allows students to represent their knowledge in a variety of ways. He also addressed the A-F rating system, noting some areas of value (including recognition of student growth), but stressed that the current model also places a heavy emphasis on one day of testing that creates a test-focused culture. Hill noted another area of concern is that the current system is complex, making it difficult to understand how a rating is derived. He recommended that other indicators that contribute to a child’s holistic development be considered in the system.

Lana Sveda, director, The College Board, praised the HB 3 reimbursement component that has allowed more students to take the SAT during the school day as well as the HB 3 CCMR funding bonus component that includes the SAT as one measure of that achievement. Sveda also explained why The College Board strongly discourages states from using the SAT as a high-stakes exit exam to determine whether or not a student graduates from high school. Read her full testimony.

Accountability specialist Dee Carney testified on behalf of the Texas School Alliance and Raise Your Hand Texas Measure What Matters Council, noting three unintended consequences of the current system: it fails to recognize what Texas citizens value, such as school safety; it falls short in recognizing that student learning begins in very different places; and it invites the question of whether or not the STAAR accountability reset that has begun will address family income, as it is known that school ratings correspond with poverty status. Carney offered possible policy changes for the committee’s consideration: remove the summative ratings and keep individual domain ratings; include non-test-based indicators to show a more comprehensive picture of elementary and middle school campuses; better align high schools to work force readiness; and create an equity index system.

Christy Hovanetz, senior policy fellow, ExcelinEd discussed the reliability and validity aspects of the state assessments. Gregory-Portland ISD intervention specialist Megan Perez described her positive experiences participating on a STAAR item review committee and STAAR redesign committee.

The last panel of invited testimony provided the parent perspective and included Learning Heroes and National Parents Union representatives, who discussed the results of member surveys. A parent of students enrolled in K-12 public schools shared her concerns about moving to an online testing program, as it presents a barrier for some students, including her own children. She said that she wants the state to ensure accommodations are provided equitably for students for both online and paper test administrations, and that the accommodation decisions be made locally by those in the district who know the instructional needs of the students.

Next House Public Education and Higher Education Interim Hearing

Before adjourning, Chair Harold Dutton said that the last interim hearing would be held September 20, and the agenda will focus on teachers. Dutton said that it will be a joint hearing of the House Public Education and the Higher Education committees.