House passes bill cutting EOC exams

The State House of Representatives passed HB-5 145-2 on Tuesday night, overwhelmingly calling for reducing the state’s high-stakes testing system from 15 to five end-of-course exams.

The bill also creates a more flexible path to graduation, to ensure that students have the opportunity to prepare for post-secondary careers while in high school, according to Rep. Trent Ashby, who coauthored the legislation.

“I am extremely proud of what we were able to accomplish today,” Ashby said. “We untied our teachers’ hands by giving them some actual instructional time back, and put forth measures that enable our students to have access to multiple career paths. My hope is that this bill will allow students to develop their talents and pursue their interests, and reduce overreliance on standardized testing to evaluate student performance.”

The legislation seeks to curtail testing, eliminate the 15 percent rule that would force a student’s score on end-of-course testing to count for 15 percent of the student’s average, and free school districts to focus on more flexible graduation plans.

“During my time as a (Lufkin ISD) school board member, I saw firsthand the problems that our school districts are facing,” Ashby said. “Our teachers are overburdened by the excessive amount of testing, and our students are losing their opportunity to have a balanced education. A phrase that people like to throw around is ‘career and college readiness,’ but lately our schools have been forced to put the ‘career’ portion of that on the backburner.”

The Diboll ISD board unanimously supported this legislation through numerous resolutions, said Gary Martel, DISD superintendent.

“It is a great day for education in Texas! Our region 7 superintendent cohort along with countless other superintendents from across this great state have been working for a number of months to make this legislation a reality,” Martel said. “Our legislators have listened to the people in the trenches and should be commended. A special thank you to our District 57 State Representative Trent Ashby for being a champion to educators, parents and children in this district.”

Ashby voiced his support for the flexible graduation plan in HB-5, saying that a diverse education is the key to our state’s diverse economy.

“There are businesses across East Texas that have employment needs,” Ashby said. “They have jobs that need to be filled, but our graduating students don’t have the skills to do those jobs. It isn’t the students’ fault, they have been taught how to pass a test, so that is the skill they have. If we expect them to have other skills, we have to teach them; and if we expect our schools to be able to do that, we have to take so much of the focus off of the testing.”

The district already has started the process of looking at new course offering,

Martel said, “such as building trades and also looking at ideas to enhance current courses so that our graduates continue to be successful.”

Ashby said that his office spoke with more than 20 superintendents and numerous educators, parents, and business leaders from across District 57, all of whom supported HB-5 and its reduction of high-stakes testing.

“No one in the public education arena that I talked to wanted to see more high-stakes testing of our kids,” Ashby said. “I was happy to see that my colleagues have been hearing the same concerns from their teachers and parents that I have. I also hope that this is only the first step of testing reform, because this only deals with high school EOCs. The next step, and there are bills filed that deal with this, is to lift the burden that excessive testing is placing on our students in third through eighth grade.”