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Senate Education Committee to Hear Two House Testing Bills, Others on May 20

05.19.2015 — The Senate Education Committee will meet at 9 a.m., Wednesday, May 20, on the following bills:

  • HB 731 by Eddie Lucio, III, as amended by House Committee Substitute, would create a pilot program to enable the state to evaluate the benefit of providing additional funds at the pre-K level for low-income students. The commissioner would provide funding for a half-day pre-K program in Brownsville ISD for a number of low-income students equal to twice the number of students who received, as a result of participation in an early high school graduation program operated by the district, a high school diploma during the preceding school year after three years of secondary school attendance. This would expire September 1, 2023.

  • HB 743 by Dan Huberty, et al., as passed by the House, would require that before it is administered, an assessment instrument be determined to be valid and reliable, based on empirical evidence, by an independent entity. TEA would ensure that an assessment instrument is designed to primarily assess the SBOE-identified essential knowledge and skills for the subject and grade level for which it is administered. The bill would require that an assessment instrument be designed to be completed within a certain amount of time by 85 percent of students: 120 minutes for students in grades 3-5 and 180 minutes in grades 6-8. The time allowed could not exceed eight hours and could occur on only one day. The bill would also require TEA to study the essential knowledge and skills of the required curriculum and assessment instruments. The study would evaluate: the number and scope of essential knowledge and skills and whether either should be limited; the number and subjects of assessment instruments required in grades 3-8; and how assessment instruments assess standards essential for student success and whether they should also assess supporting standards. By March 1, 2016, TEA would report its study results to the SBOE. By May 1, 2016, the SBOE would review the study and submit to various state officials TEA’s report and SBOE recommendations regarding each issue evaluated. TEA would develop a comprehensive methodology for auditing and monitoring performance under contracts for services to develop or administer assessment instruments. TEA would ensure that all new and renewed contracts include a provision that TEA or a designee could conduct periodic contract compliance reviews, without advance notice, to monitor vendor performance. Finally, the bill would preclude indicators of student achievement from including student performance as to supporting knowledge or skills.

  • HB 1164 by Gary VanDeaver, et al., as passed by the House, would require each school district to evaluate student achievement in writing by assessing students in grades 4 and 7 and at the end of English I and II secondary-level courses in accordance with the writing TEKS. A district could use any method it determines appropriate for assessing students, including portfolio assessment. A student assessed at the end of English I or II would have to demonstrate performance that indicates successful achievement of the writing TEKS for the course as determined by the district school board. A student could not receive a high school diploma until the student has demonstrated satisfactory performance. The district would provide notice of a student’s performance to the student’s parent or person standing in parental relation. Each school year, each district would prepare a performance report of students assessed under this new section. The report would include specific information and be filed with TEA and the school board and posted on the district’s website. The bill would provide that a student in a special education program could, with the approval of the student’s parent or guardian, opt out of the administration of an assessment instrument in English language arts. If a student opts out, the student’s school district, in conjunction with the student’s ARD committee, would adopt or develop an alternative assessment instrument for the student. Any such instrument would be subject to approval by the district superintendent. The English I and II EOC assessments would assess TEKS in language arts rather than writing, and the assessment of a student’s writing would be governed by 39.0264. This would apply beginning with the 2016-17 school year.

  • HB 1171 by Marsha Farney, et al., as passed by the House, would provide that an open-enrollment charter school, charter holder, employees, volunteers, or governing body members are immune to the same extent as a school district or its employees, volunteers, or trustees. The bill would define an open-enrollment charter school as a governmental unit for purposes of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Chapter 101, and subject to liability only as a school district is under that chapter. An open-enrollment charter school would be considered a local government for purposes of payment on a tort claim under Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Chapter 102. An open-enrollment charter school would be considered a local governmental entity for purposes of contract liability under Local Government Code, Chapter 271, Subchapter I, and only liable as a school district is under that law.

  • HB 2186 by Byron Cook, et al., as passed by the House, would require that training provided by a school district under the Health and Safety Code specifically address the prevention of youth suicide, and that certain district employees participate in the training at least once annually. The bill would delete the recordkeeping requirement.

  • HB 2593 by Four Price, as amended by House Committee Substitute, would amend Education Code 42.105 pertaining to the sparsity adjustment. Certain districts with fewer than 130 students in ADA would be provided an adjusted basic allotment on the basis of 130 students in ADA if the district offers a K-4 program and has preceding or current year’s ADA of at least 75 students or is 30 miles or more by bus route from the nearest high school district. This would apply only to a district that does not offer each grade level and whose prospective or former students generally attend school in a bordering state for the grade levels the district does not offer, that serves both students residing in Texas and students residing in a bordering state who are subsequently eligible for in-state tuition rates at institutions of higher education in either state regardless of the state in which the students reside, and that shares students with an out-of-state district that does not offer competing instructional services.

The following bills were added to the agenda on Tuesday, May 19, after the meeting was originally posted:

  • HB 2251 by Rafael Anchia would allow a charter school to ask the commissioner for an alternate payment schedule of Foundation School Program funding if student enrollment in that school has increased by 10 percent compared to the preceding year. The schedule would be a more evenly distributed funding throughout the year rather than graduated payments. The change in the funding schedule would be valid for three years and then would be reviewed by the commissioner for continuation.
  • HB 3987 by Marsha Farney, as passed by the House, would allow a school district or open-enrollment charter school to establish a school-based savings program, possibly in conjunction with a personal literacy course, to facilitate increased awareness of the importance of saving for higher education and facilitate personal financial literacy instruction. A school-based savings program could promote general savings and savings for higher education by offering various types of accounts through partner financial institutions. The bill would address the establishment and function of these partnerships with financial institutions and with public sector partners, private businesses, nonprofit organizations, and philanthropic organizations. The bill would exclude these accounts from assets considered in determining a person’s eligibility for a TEXAS grant or other state-funded financial assistance, including assistance under the Human Resources Code, Chapters 31, 32, and 33. The bill would specify the amount of the exclusion.

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