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House Public Education Committee Considers School Finance, Assessment/Accountability Bills

03.22.2017 — Before hearing testimony on more than 20 bills related to assessment and accountability on Tuesday, the House Public Education Committee discussed HB 21, Huberty’s school finance bill, which the committee also heard on March 14 and March 7.
HB 21 School Finance Bill
Huberty announced that more funding would be added to the bill, allocating $1.9 billion rather than $1.6 billion in additional funding to public schools. The new funds would possibly be earmarked for career and technical education and bilingual education. Huberty said that bill authors considered using the approximately $250,000 in new funding to help districts that would face hardship due to the expiration of ASATR or the repeal of the hold harmless provision, but decided putting it into the basic allotment would be more beneficial across the state.

Following last week’s discussion, the bill authors are also moving to a straight, “one-bucket” proposal for allocating the funds using a prorated model.

Huberty announced that the substitute bill is not yet final but that he expects to post final language this week. Model runs would be posted with the substitute bill, and input is welcome. A vote on the bill is planned for next week. HB 21 was left pending.

HB 22 School Accountability Bill
The committee also discussed and heard testimony on HB 22, Huberty’s accountability bill, which would: reduce the five domains of achievement indicators to three; assign A-F grades to each of the three domains but eliminate the overall A-F grade for schools/districts; reduce the weight of standardized tests from 55 to 50 percent; change the performance rating of “D” to reflect performance “in need of improvement”; require “what if” performance ratings to be issued in 2017 and 2018; delay implementation of the A-F system to August 2019.

Huberty stated that the current A-F system is flawed and that rolling all the grades from the various domains into one overall grade, particularly when a district may get a low grade for one area such as parent engagement, over which they largely have no control, is unfair. He said he was “tired of hearing rhetoric about our failing schools” and wants to move to a system that better spotlights where improvements should be made.

The first panel of invited testimony included Commissioner of Education Mike Morath and Alief ISD Superintendent H.D. Chambers, testifying on behalf of the Texas School Alliance. Both answered questions about the changes the bill would make. Morath stressed that the specific indicators chosen for each domain matter a great deal as they represent the Legislature’s goals for education. Chambers noted that the delay in implementation is extremely important to making the system the best it can be.

The second panel of invited testimony included Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, speaking on behalf of TASA and the Texas Urban Council and offering the urban schools perspective, and Hudson ISD Superintendent Mary Ann Whiteker, representing TASA on behalf of small, midsize, and rural school districts. Both testified in support of the bill but expressed a lack of support for A-F systems in general. Hinojosa mentioned that delaying implementation would give the state time to not only implement changes to Texas’ A-F system but also provide an opportunity to reflect on the effectiveness of such systems generally, pointing out that other states are currently reconsidering their A-F systems. Whiteker spoke in support of several of the bill’s changes to the A-F system, stating that in small districts, granting an overall summative grade could equate to giving the community a grade. She offered suggestions and cautions on measures in each domain and asked that the size, location, level of poverty, financial and community resources available be considered.

The third panel included Stafford Municipal School District Superintendent Robert Bostic and Sunnyvale ISD Superintendent Doug Williams, both testifying in support of the bill but noting opposition to the A-F concept. Williams, representing TASA, pointed out that the current system, which grades schools/districts on growth in student achievement — normally a valid measure of how schools/districts are doing — will actually penalize schools/districts with large numbers of high-performing students, because if they have consistently high scores they have little room for growth. He also stressed the importance of hearing from a number of districts/stakeholders as the rules are written to implement the bill to get the various perspectives needed to address the complexities and details of changing the system.

Most others offering public testimony were generally supportive of the changes the bill makes to the A-F system but did offer suggestions for improvement and words of caution on various provisions.

Huberty asked Plano ISD Superintendent Brian Binggeli, formerly a superintendent in Florida, who testified in support of the bill but offered some concerns and cautions, about his prior experience with an A-F accountability system. Binggeli said that taking the time to get the indicators right (and figuring out how best to measure them) is important. He observed that Florida moved too quickly and had to continue to change its system, causing the public to lose faith in it.

Huberty closed discussion on the bill and indicated he was seeking more input. He said he intends to have a substitute bill next week. HB 22 was left pending.

Other Assessment/Accountability Bills
The committee also heard testimony on the following assessment and accountability bills:

  • HB 1776 (Ashby) would eliminate the required U.S. history end-of-course assessment and replace it with the civics test administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Students, starting with those entering the ninth grade in the 2018-19 school year, would be required to pass the test (answering at least 70 percent of questions correctly) to graduate. The test would be administered during any high school grade level and at any time during the school year when the instructor or counselor determines the student to be ready. It also would give students an unlimited number of attempts to pass the test and provide for accommodations and exceptions for special education students. The bill was left pending.

  • HB 1336 (Leach, et al.) requires the inclusion of a description of a district’s total expenses related to administering a required state assessment in the annual financial management report. The intent is to provide more financial transparency related to the substantial costs that districts must pay related to standardized tests. The bill was left pending.
  • HB 145 (Dutton) would require, in districts that have student enrollments of at least 1,000 African-American males (70 Texas school districts), that the performance of American-American males be the only consideration for evaluating the performance of a school district. The intent of the bill is to bring more attention to this subgroup. The bill was left pending.

  • HB 61 (Guillen) would allow districts to earn a distinction in the public school accountability system for providing excellent special education programs. HB 61 was left pending.

  • HB 79 (Guillen) would prohibit TEA from limiting the percentage of a district’s special education students who are appropriately assessed through alternative assessment instruments based on state eligibility criteria. It would also prohibit TEA from using the reported percentage of special education students who are assessed through the alternative assessment instruments for performance, compliance, or accountability purposes. The bill was left pending.

  • HB 1500 (Giddings, et al.) would add the percentage of students who earn an associate degrees as a performance indicator in the fourth domain of the public school accountability system. The bill was left pending.
  • HB 1057 (Thompson, Senfronia) would make changes to the fourth domain of the public school accountability system, adding as indicators the percentage of students who have: completed an international baccalaureate course; received credit by examination; been promoted to higher grade levels than the grade levels to which the students would ordinarily be assigned; and earned a diploma after not more than three years of high school attendance. The bill was left pending.

  • HB 1174 (Hinojosa, Gina, et al.) would include the percentage of students who successfully complete an OnRamps dual enrollment course as an indicator in the fourth domain of the public school accountability system. The bill was left pending.
  • HB 988 (González, Mary) would establish a pilot program under which public schools may develop a portfolio method to assess student performance in grades three through eight for purposes of accountability and qualification for promotion. The bill was left pending.

  • HB 989 (González, Mary) would establish a pilot program under which public schools may develop a portfolio method to assess secondary-level student performance for purposes of accountability and qualification for graduation. The bill was left pending.

  • HB 1650 (Goldman, et al.) would make a student enrolled in an eligible U.S. history dual credit course provided through an institution of higher education eligible to be exempt from administration of the U.S. history end-of-course assessment instrument. The bill was left pending.
  • HB 795 (Johnson, Jarvis) would make changes to the process for district/charter school challenges relating to an academic performance rating or determination or financial accountability rating. Several charter school representatives testified in support of the bill, explaining that it would give the commissioner more flexibility with changing ratings that were originally low due to a school/district data error and with the constraints of SB 2 from 2013 regarding the closure of charter schools. The bill was left pending.

  • HB 1993 (Anderson, Rodney) would require the commissioner to adopt procedures to identify nationally recognized, norm-referenced assessment instruments as additional alternative assessment instruments that may be used to evaluate student achievement for purposes of public school accountability. It would require a federal waiver. The bill was left pending.

  • HB 3607 (King, Ken) would require the commissioner to identify a procedure for a school district to select, as a secondary-level assessment instrument, the Texas Success Initiative (TSI) diagnostic assessment or a nationally recognized, norm-referenced assessment instrument, including the SAT or the ACT. It would require school districts to require the administration of the secondary-level assessment instrument selected to students in grade 11. The bill was left pending.

  • HB 1731 (King, Ken) would exclude students receiving treatment in a residential facility who leave that facility and fail to enroll in school in the determination of dropout rates for the school and district serving the facility for purposes of public school accountability. The bill was left pending.

  • HB 515 (VanDeaver, et al.) would eliminate certain state-required assessment instruments (writing in grades four and seven and social studies in grade eight) not required by federal law. It would eliminate the existing required end-of-course (EOC) assessments and instead require TEA to adopt EOC assessment instruments for secondary level courses in reading, math, and science only as necessary to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act and require that they be administered only as necessary to meet the minimum requirements of ESSA. It would also remove the language on the scheduling of EOC exams from law. The bill has a negative fiscal note (savings to the state) of $11 million. TAMSA and others testified in support of this bill. The bill was left pending.

  • HB 2263 (Gooden) would remove the requirements that a campus intervention team continue to monitor public school campuses to which they have been assigned until the campus satisfies all performance standards for a one-year period and the commissioner determines that the campus is operating and will continue to operate in a manner that improves student achievement or for a two-year period or the campus satisfies all performance standards. This bill was left pending.

  • HB 3828 (Huberty) would make changes relating to accreditation interventions and sanctions. One provision would require the commissioner to either approve or reject, by June 15, any campus turnaround plan prepared and submitted to the commissioner by a district. The commissioner would also be required to send the district an outline of the specific concerns regarding the turnaround plan that resulted in a rejection. The bill makes other changes to that process as well. The bill was left pending.

  • HB 789 (Meyer) would allow the board of Highland Park ISD in Region 10 to establish a minimum required score for each section of an exam for acceleration or an exam for credit approved by the board that is higher than the minimum required scores, respectively (90 percent rather than 80 percent). The bill was left pending.

  • HB 546 (Deshotel) would limit state-required assessment instruments to subjects for which assessment is required by federal law. Deshotel said he would pull the bill down since its intent is covered by VanDeaver’s HB 515. The bill was left pending.

  • HB 657 (Bernal) would change procedures for a special education student who fails to perform satisfactorily on certain assessment instruments. It would require the student’s ARD committee to set a meeting date no later than five days after the date the district receives the assessment results and to meet prior to the student being administered the test again. It would also allow the ARD committee to promote the student to the next grade level if the committee concludes that the student has made sufficient progress in the measurable academic goals contained in the student’s IEP. The intent of the bill is to reduce the number of unnecessary tests a special education student must take. The bill was left pending.

  • HB 3104 (VanDeaver) In the committee hearing, VanDeaver laid out a substitute for his originally filed bill, explaining that TEA had notified him that the agency did not have the funds to continue with a writing pilot program established by VanDeaver's HB 1164, passed in 2015. The substitute bill ends the two-year pilot after one year. Christi Morgan, assistant superintendent for Sunnyvale ISD, testified in support of the bill on behalf of TASA. She provided information on Sunnyvale ISD’s participation in the writing pilot program created by HB 1164, the benefits of that program and the data that will result from it. Sunnyvale ISD Superintendent Doug Williams also testified in support of the bill on behalf of TASA. TAMSA also testified in support of this bill, which was left pending.

  • HB 3075 (Huberty) would exclude students detained at a county pre-adjudication or post-adjudication juvenile detention facility from the computation of dropout and completion rates for purposes of public school accountability, extending an exemption that public school districts currently have to charter schools. The bill was left pending.

Bills Voted Out of Committee
The committee voted out the following bills, on which testimony was heard March 14, sending them to the House for review:

  • HB 1645 (Lozano, et al.) would require school districts that allow high school students to earn a letter for academic, athletic, or extracurricular achievements to adopt a policy that allows high school students in the district to earn a letter on the basis of a student’s participation in a Special Olympics event. A committee substitute was adopted.

  • HB 728 (Guerra) would require the commissioner of education to develop and implement an advanced computer science program that high school students may take to comply with the curriculum requirements for advanced mathematics or science credits. A committee substitute was adopted.

  • HB 367 (Bernal, et al.) would permit a school district to allow a campus to essentially set up an on-campus food pantry for hungry students by electing to donate leftover food to a nonprofit organization through an official on-campus nonprofit organization representative or designee who is directly affiliated with the campus, such as a teacher, counselor, or PTA member. The donated food could be received, stored, and redistributed on campus at any time. A committee substitute was adopted.

  • HB 878 (King, Ken) would allow school districts to extend a district depository contract for three years (rather than two) and to modify the contract for any extension.

  • HB 1270 (Smithee) would allow a school district to excuse up to two days of absences of junior or senior students who visit a military recruitment center for a branch of the U.S. armed services for the purpose of determining the student’s interest in enlisting.

  • HB 264 (Hernandez) is a clean-up bill that would amend Section 28.015 of the Education Code (Public Outreach Materials to Promote Curriculum Change Awareness) by removing a reference to the Texas B-On-Time loan program and by changing the expiration date of the section from September 1, 2018, to September 1, 2020.

  • HB 136 (Bell, et al.) would add career and technology education and workforce training to the mission of public education in statute.

  • HB 357 (Huberty, et al.) would extend eligibility for free pre-K programs in public schools to the children of people eligible for the Star of Texas Award, which honors peace officers, firefighters, and emergency medical first responders who are seriously injured or killed in the line of duty.

Watch the archived hearing.