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Commission Discusses Potential Assessment/Accountability Recommendations

06.14.2016 — The Texas Commission on Next-Generation Assessments and Accountability (TCNGAA) held its sixth meeting June 13.

Prior to the meeting, commission members were asked to make suggestions for short- and long-term recommendations that the group could consider for its final report due to the Legislature and governor by September 1. Initially, 38 were compiled to share at the meeting, but 15 more were added that morning. According to TEA staff, all 53 recommendations will be posted on the TCNGAA webpage soon.

The meeting facilitator asked members to individually prioritize the ideas they felt were most important and to note any recommendations with which they had conflict.

One of the recommendations was to limit state testing to the “readiness” standards only (not testing the “supporting” standards at a statewide level). The group agreed that because the SBOE continues to work to improve the TEKS through streamlining and adding depth, their recommendation would be a feasible short-term solution that would address the problem of teachers having so many TEKS to cover in a school year that they cannot teach enough of them in depth.

There was a lengthy discussion on a recommendation that would have suggested the 85th Texas Legislature conduct a thorough review of both the positive and negative impacts of implementing a full-scale A–F rating system for districts in 2017–18. Some commission members, including Pauline Dow, chief instructional officer for North East ISD in San Antonio, said that more time was needed to look deeper at the results of other states that have implemented a similar rating system. Other members, including Stacy Hock, the commission’s vice-chair and a Texas Public Policy Foundation board member, said the state should move forward without further study. The group agreed that the state accountability system should align with federal Every Student Succeeds Act requirements.

Multiple recommendations referenced computer adaptive or real-time diagnostic tests that could be given to students in grades 3–8 in lieu of the current version of STAAR. It is likely this concept will be included in the commission’s final report as a long-term recommendation. Members suggested that data be reviewed from districts in the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium (THPSC) and others that are using adaptive learning programs.

Numerous recommendations related to the elimination of STAAR writing as a uniform, statewide standardized assessment. The discussion centered on local options for assessing writing, possibly through a means approved by the commissioner with a random sampling of results. Kim Alexander, superintendent of Roscoe Collegiate ISD, went further by sharing a recommendation made by the THPSC that the number of state tests and the inclusion of their results in the accountability system should be limited to the minimum federal requirements to free up time for schools to focus on facilitating 21st century learning. (Writing assessment is not required by ESSA.) Commission Chairman Andrew Kim, superintendent of Comal ISD, argued the merits of keeping the writing tests in the state system.

Another topic of discussion was the disconnect between end-of-course exams and national tests such as the SAT and ACT. Some members recommended replacing EOCs with a national test or with the TSI and replacing the eighth-grade STAAR with a norm-referenced test such as the PSAT.

The group did not have time to discuss all of the recommendations in detail, nor was there a formal voting process in place. The facilitator said that she would gather the notes from the day’s discussion to compile a first draft of recommendations for the commission members to consider at its last scheduled meeting on July 27. Chairman Kim suggested that recommendations that don’t make the group’s final report could be included as an appendix.

In the meantime, SBOE chair Donna Bahorich released a survey on June 14 that seeks input about the state’s assessment and accountability systems and is open to all Texans through June 30. The information gathered will become part of the TCNGAA’s final report. Learn more and link to the survey in both English and Spanish.