The House Public Education committee met Tuesday to hear public and invited testimony concerning the implementation of HB 3906, as well as the progress on recommendations by the 2016 Commission on the Next Generation Assessments and Accountability. HB 3906, from the 86th legislative session in 2019, called for significant changes to the state assessment system to reduce the overall number of multiple-choice questions and to administer the STAAR entirely online by the 2022-2023 academic year. Education Commissioner Mike Morath described the new item types that students will encounter this coming spring and highlighted the accommodations that will be available in the online administration. While the state may have “solved” the issue of having sufficient computer hardware, Rep. Mary González pointed out that 2022 was the first STAAR administration that did not experience major technical problems like lapses in internet connectivity.
The commissioner also described the data from the “through-year” pilot of a potential new assessment model under which testing would occur throughout the year with a cumulative score calculated at the end of the year. Not only would this be a more expensive system, adding to an already inflated testing contract, but it also has the potential to wrest local control of curriculum delivery from districts by allowing the state to dictate what instruction must occur by certain points of the year. Texas should be looking for ways to reduce student testing and how much taxpayer money is spent on it; Morath’s proposal would increase both. Texas AFT will closely monitor the agency’s budget requests for additional testing dollars, as well as the implementation of the redesigned assessments in the spring.
Near the end of the meeting, Rep. Harold Dutton, chair of the House Public Education Committee, announced the final interim hearing would be concerned with teachers. The agenda for the hearing, set for Sept. 20, will:
- evaluate the impact of the pandemic on the state’s teacher workforce and current practices to improve the recruitment, preparation, and retention of high-quality educators
- explore the impact of the educator preparation program regulatory environment
- make recommendations to improve educator recruitment, retention, and preparation.
Even though the school year will be well underway by then, we hope Chairman Dutton will invite a diverse group of educators from across the state, as well as educator groups, who can testify on their unvarnished experiences of the past few years and provide real solutions the Legislature must act on to preserve the teaching profession.