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Southlake Style

Education Reform

Aug 08, 2013 10:38AM ● By tina

House Bill 5 reduces the maximum number of testi hours from 90 to 21.

House Bill 5 Introduces Curriculum Changes

By Linden Wilson, Assistant Editor

Every new school year brings change for students and parents, but this year, school curriculum itself will change. It stems from the June 10 passing of Texas House Bill 5 that alters curriculum standards for public schools and significantly reduces the amount of testing students must complete in order to graduate high school. Students will be required by the state to take just five end-of-course (EOC) standardized tests in English I, English II, algebra I, biology and U.S. history, down from 15. The bill further mandates that a student’s performance on an EOC assessment will no longer account for 15 percent of his or her final course grade. The bill’s author, Representative Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen), proposed the number of EOC exams be reduced from 15 to five and that the maximum number of test hours be reduced from 90 to 21.

“The reduction in state assessments will provide districts a greater opportunity for improving student learning environments,” says Dr. JJ Villarreal, Carroll ISD’s assistant superintendent for student services. “CISD supports a teaching environment that facilitates collaborative learning and problem solving using multiple options for assessing students.”

House Bill 5, a 19-page document, eliminates the current Minimum, Recommended and Advanced High School graduation programs and replaces them with the Foundation High School program, which provides endorsements on a student’s diploma and transcript if he or she completes certain courses. Endorsements include science, technology, engineering and mathematics; business and industry; public services; arts and humanities; and multidisciplinary studies. The bill indicates students will now take four English credits and three science, social studies and math credits instead of the previously required four of each. Students are also required to take two foreign language credits; one fine art credit; one physical education credit; and five elective credits. This update to the curriculum is intended to give students more flexibility when it comes to deciding what educational paths they want to pursue.

“We have reached the point at which testing is interfering with learning,” says Senator Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound). “This bill will allow students to focus on the curriculum, not just the test, while maintaining high standards. I believe our students will rise to our level of expectations.” The support of Nelson, a former teacher who served two terms on the State Board of Education before joining the Texas Senate, comes as no surprise, but Governor Rick Perry was expected by some to veto the bill before he actually decided to sign it.

“You never know,” Aycock told the Austin-American Statesman in the days leading up to June 10. “It only becomes law when the ink is dry.” Now that the ink is officially dry, high school seniors will also see changes to state financial-aid requirements and the program offering automatic admission into a state university if they rank amongst the top 10 percent academically in their school. In order to qualify for both financial aid as well as for the top 10 percent program, students must take four science credits, and algebra II must be among their fourth math credits. Additionally, students with disabilities will be allowed to substitute a P.E. course credit for an academic course credit.

Fiscally, House Bill 5 is projected to have a positive impact of saving more than $11 million through the next two academic years. School districts, although they might incur additional costs related to implementing the bill’s provisions, could also experience savings from the reduced number of EOC assessments amounting to roughly $8.7 million annually.