Texas Legislature
12:49 pm
Tue May 7, 2013

Testing Bill Asks Students To Choose Career Path In 9th Grade

Before eventually passing the measure, the Senate made radical changes to assessment testing and developed a new model for high school education and school accountability ratings.

The bill originated in the Texas House, but found its clarity in the Senate. 

Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, the bill’s co-author, said this bill does more than reduce the number of high-stakes exams required to graduate from 15 to five.

"This will be - I believe, at the end of the day - the most rigorous, the most flexible education plan for five million students in the country." Patrick said.

One of the bigger changes to the bill directs Education Commissioner Michael Williams to not implement his grade A through F school accountability system, leaving the current rating system intact for individual campuses.

Instead of rating each campus, the bill would have the districts as a whole rated A through F.

"This will stop districts from ignoring a school and saying, 'You know that school, those kids, those families, that neighborhood, they can’t learn, they can't be successful.' And they can shun them. No more," Patrick said.

The other part of the bill creates a flex four by four plan for student curriculum that keeps certain core classes until ninth grade, when students would decide whether they are college-bound or career-ready and begin taking the appropriate courses.

Initially fellow lawmakers had concerns that reducing the number of exams would lower the amount of rigor required for schools, but Patrick said his flex plan gives students the option of taking courses like Algebra II, and still opens a pathway for those not college-bound.

"There are so many career paths that require some additional education but not a four-year degree. So what we wanted to do is to lift up those students and lift up that whole program with new rigorous courses and also remove any stigma for any student who doesn’t go to college," Patrick said.

There were about 24 amendments added to the bill, and one allows parents to opt-out of radio frequency attendance programs like that being currently used at San Antonio’s Northside ISD.    

The bill now heads to conference committee just before being sent to Governor Perry’s desk.