As secondary students in Central Texas school districts work to complete state standardized tests this year, lawmakers are trying to reform the testing system in Texas.
Most elementary, middle and high school students in the Killeen and Copperas Cove districts are currently taking the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, tests.
This is the second year that all students in grades three through 10 are required to use the new tests, which are seen by many as rigorous and geared toward ensuring children are prepared for college.
As testing continues in area classrooms, a bill in the Texas Legislature aims to reform and streamline the state testing system.
bill in Senate
House Bill 5 — which passed the Texas House earlier this month and is now in the Senate — calls for a large-scale overhaul of the state’s education code, including graduation standards, school accountability, financial reports and testing.
The bill, if signed into law, would reduce the number of end-of-course exams that high school students are required to take under STAAR.
End-of-course exams are standardized tests given for a specific course. Under the current education code, high school students take 15 end-of-course exams over three years.
House Bill 5 — authored by state Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock of Killeen — would reduce that number to five tests in the subjects of reading, writing, biology, algebra I and U.S. history.
Aycock said reining in the number of tests students have to take was a key component of the bill.
“The number of days occupied with testing has become a problem, and we are hoping to reel a bunch of that back while still maintaining the quality of education for Texas students,” Aycock said. “It’s absolutely a very important part of that bill.”
Positive local reaction
Local school districts and state teacher groups have reacted positively to the possible changes.
Monty Exter, a representative of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, said his group supports the bill, including the provisions that would reduce the number of end-of-course exams.
“I think that both teachers and kids are going to be spending less time taking these high-stakes tests, and more time learning,” he said.
Salado Independent School District Superintendent Michael Novotny agreed.
“I do support accountability and standardized testing, but when you have 15 tests, it’s a bit excessive,” he said. “I think (the bill) will bring more of a balance to the testing.”
Novotny estimated that his district spends roughly 45 days of its 180-day school year on some form of testing.
“That’s a very high number,” he said.
The Killeen Independent School District said in a statement it continues to monitor the progress of the bill and indicated it supports the changes to standardized testing.
“House Bill 5 represents legislation that the Killeen Independent School District supports,” the statement read. “The changes that are proposed in this bill are ones that we believe will move public education forward, particularly with respect to college and career readiness.”
Late last year, the Killeen district’s board of trustees passed a resolution raising concerns that testing had been overemphasized as the only method of assessing the academic success of students. Other local districts that adopted the resolution regarding so-called “high-stakes” testing included the Copperas Cove, Belton, Lampasas, Gatesville and Salado Independent School districts.
Clay Robison, spokesman for the Texas State Teachers Association, an organization that has long advocated for testing reform, said the organization backed the bill, including the cutback on end-of-course exams for Texas students.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” he said.
If the bill is passed and signed into law, changes to the testing system could take place as early as next school year.