Notable Education Bills Get a Hearing in the Texas House

The House Public Education Committee on Tuesday took testimony regarding two important bills that would turn state policy in the right direction on teacher training and standardized testing.

HB 135 by Rep. Mike Villarreal, Democrat of San Antonio, would require alternative-certification programs to include at least 15 hours of field experience in which the teacher candidate is in a classroom instructing students, before that teacher candidate can be employed by a school district as a teacher of record. The goal, Villarreal said, is to ensure that teachers coming out of these programs are better prepared through clinical experience for the realities they will face in the classroom. Texas AFT’s Ted Melina Raab testified for the bill and for the principle it would establish; we hope the legislature from this starting point eventually will do more to increase the clinical-experience requirement. Even Villarreal’s modest first step drew opposition, however, from a spokesman for the sort of alternative-certification programs that would rather skimp on field experience.

HB 233 by Rep. Scott Hochberg, Democrat of Houston, would strike a blow against the excessive emphasis on standardized testing in our schools. Students in third, fifth, and eighth grade would still take the state’s tests, but for students who do well on these tests his bill would eliminate standardized testing in the intervening years. Texas AFT supports this simple but consequential piece of legislation, which would hinder current efforts to make standardized tests more than ever the be-all, end-all of education. It was no surprise that the bill drew vehement opposition from a long-time spokesman for the testing industry—or that it drew strong support from a broad array of educator and parent witnesses.

The bill also has significant bipartisan support among legislators, as shown by its roster of original authors and co-authors. Joining Hochberg in filing the bill were Republican Reps. Dan Huberty of Humble, Rick Hardcastle of Vernon, Dennis Bonnen of Angleton, Jim Keffer of Granbury, and Democrats Sylvester Turner of Houston, Mike Villarreal of San Antonio, and Lon Burnam of Fort Worth.