Two Bummer Bills in Texas: HB 742 and HB 1164

Apr 23, 2015 by

“Two Bummer Bills in Texas: HB 742 and HB 1164”

By Donna Garner

4.23.15

 

 

Tex. Rep. Huberty’s HB 742 Committee Substitute (http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=84R&Bill=HB742): 

 

Thankfully, the changes to HB 742 have left writing, spelling, and grammar in the STAAR tests in Grades 4 and 7.  This is a definite improvement. 

 

However, deleting Social Studies in Grade 8 is a huge mistake. This would leave no accountability for students to be taught the Social Studies TEKS basically in K through Grade 8! 

 

Here is the link to the most fact-based, patriotic standards in America – the Texas Social Studies TEKS:  http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/rules/tac/chapter113/index.html

 

What’s not to like?  Surely every Texas parent would want his children to be taught these rich and important Social Studies elements in K – 12 and certainly in K-8.  Without the “measuring stick” and accountability of the Social Studies STAAR in Grade 8, many teachers would simply quit teaching what is in the K-8 Social Studies TEKS.

 

Why de-emphasize the teaching of Social Studies when obviously students all across this country are so terribly lacking in an understanding of World History and U. S. History?  Some states have quit teaching Social Studies altogether, and that is why we are seeing huge percentages of non-informed citizens and voters.

 

How could an elected member of the Texas Legislature not realize that what we need are MORE informed voters to ensure the future of our state and nation – not FEWER informed voters?  Why is Rep. Huberty tinkering with the STAAR/EOC’s at all? 

 

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Texas Rep. Van Deaver’s HB 1164

( http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=84R&Bill=HB1164) implements subjectively evaluated PORTFOLIO assessments instead of the present STAAR/End-of-Course tests in English I and II, which are largely objectively scored.  Portfolio assessments (also called “authentic assessments” or “performance-based”) by their nature have to be subjectively assessed based upon the value system of the evaluator. 

 

Also, there can be no security requirements over the students who produce portfolios because all students would not have enough time to produce them in a computer lab under the watchful eye of the teacher.  

 

We are not talking about a simple writing project.  Portfolio assessments (i.e., authentic assessments) include videos, graphic art, high-tech special effects, etc.  Portfolio assessments obviously have to be done outside of class time. This means they can be produced at home or anywhere else and by anyone (student’s best friend, parents, family members, professional portfolio producer, technology specialist, etc.). 

 

Of course, portfolio assessments would move students right into the digitized, graphics world where they can spend their time on techie devices, creating videos and graphic art designs instead of learning grammar/usage/spelling, correct expository/persuasive/research writing, and the time-honored classics. Students would absolutely adore authentic assessments/portfolios because they would not have to do the hard work that it takes for them to master the rigorous requirements in the English I-IV TEKS.  

 

As a 33-year English teacher, I can definitely state that if under HB 1164 the portfolios are to be evaluated by the student’s English teacher, that teacher would have a hard time scoring them with any type of objective “rubric”;  and the end result would be mounting grade inflation. 

 

If per chance some conscientious English teacher were to mark a student down on his portfolio and he and his parents came to see the teacher with their lawyer in tow, the teacher would not stand a chance because of the subjective nature of “authentic assessments.”  Most English teachers know this, and they simply “give” students good grades on their portfolios (and constructivist projects) rather than to set a standard of excellence that many administrators might not support. 

 

If HB 1164 requires that the portfolio assessments be scored by outside evaluators, the cost of such an endeavor is very high. Back in the early 90’s, California tried the CLAS test which was built on portfolio assessments; and they quickly had to abandon the CLAS test because of the subjectivity, personally intrusive questions, and the high cost of scoring portfolios: http://articles.latimes.com/1995-10-17/news/mn-57959_1_testing-program

 

Here is a good article written in the summer of 2004 by Jay Mathews, the long-time education writer for the Washington Post. Notice the arguments about the security and the lack of explicit skills on authentic assessments (e.g., portfolios):

http://educationnext.org/portfolio-assessment/

 

Here, however, is the best and most timely article yet.  It was written very recently by Richard Innes of Kentucky on 3.2.15.  His report documents the problems with “authentic assessments” on the Kentucky Instructional Results Information System (KIRIS).  As many alert parents know, the Common Core is moving schools toward “performance” testing; and Innes’ article is very timely both for Common Core issues and for HB 1164 in Texas: http://www.bipps.org/kentuckys-history-performance-assessments-bluegrass-institute-policy-report-offers-rest-story/

 

Bottom line: Texas Legislators need to vote against HB 742 and HB 1164 because of the damage these bills would do to the academic achievement of Texas’ public school students.

 

Donna Garner

Wgarner1@hot.rr.com

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1 Comment

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    Stephen

    Have you ever taught students that take the 8th grade American History exam? Do you realize the rigor that is involved? Students are taught American History in 5th grade and again in 8th grade. Unlike Math and Reading that have skills that are built upon each year, 6th graders learn World Geography and 7th graders learn Texas History. If the TEKS are not being taught without an 8th grade test, why is there no testing at the different levels also? The only Social Studies teacher that is really accountable is the 8th grade teacher. No progress can be measured since this is the first Social Studies test taken. American History is required in 11th grade and at the college level. How logical is it to say that without a STAAR exam students are not learning their history? 8th graders take more STAAR exams than any others–4 total. It is time to stop the over testing madness! Eliminate the 8th grade American History STAAR test!!

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