Testimony of the Texas Latino Education Coalition for HB 851 Before the Texas House Public Education Committee, Presented by Morgan Craven, J.D., March 5, 2019
Chairman Huberty and Members of the House Public Education Committee:
Thank you for the opportunity of the Texas Latino Education Coalition (TLEC) to provide testimony for HB 851 on the use of individual graduation committees as a method to satisfy certain public high school graduation requirements.
TLEC is a collaborative of organizations and individuals who advocate for the rights of Latino students at the local, state and national levels. The coalition was organized to focus specifically on critical educational issues in Texas and to improve the state of education for Latino students in public schools.
Our testimony today focuses on the benefits of individual graduation committees, specifically, but we also support other measures that would improve how students are evaluated in schools, including.
- Eliminate the graduation requirement that students must pass high school exit exams. Instead, use limited, valid, reliable and formative standardized testing for diagnostic purposes to improve learning.
- Limit testing to the subjects required under the Every Student Succeeds Act – that is, eliminate the English II and U.S. History end-of-course exams.
- Reconstruct the state’s testing system to require formative assessment that is valid and reliable for all learners to monitor student learning and give ongoing feedback for teachers to improve their instruction (as opposed to summative testing that can be used in punitive ways that hurt children).
- To the extent permissible, administer testing through a randomized sampling of students capable of capturing the performance of students by race, national origin, sex/gender, socioeconomic status, language, disability, and other student group characteristics identified for educational purposes across Texas.
See IDRA’s policy brief, Don’t Block Graduation Because of a Test, and infographic, Use of Individual Graduation Committees Unlocks Diplomas for 14,422 Qualified Students in Texas
Recent Disaggregated IGC Results in Texas
Alternative assessments for high school graduation authorized pursuant to SB149 (2015) and SB 463 (2017) greatly improved opportunities to graduate, particularly for students of color and lower income students. Eleventh and 12th grade students who do not pass one or two end-of-course exams may instead demonstrate subject-matter proficiency through an evaluation by an individual graduation committee (IGC). IGCs, composed of a principal, teacher, department head, and sometimes a parent, guardian, or the student, evaluate a portfolio of the student’s work in the course or have the student complete a project to demonstrate proficiency.
According to the latest TEA data released for the 2016-17 school year, there were 14,735 students assigned an IGC. Of these, 77.5 percent (11,422) were recommended for graduation.
The data show that the vast majority of IGC graduates failed the two end-of-course exams (EOCs) that are not required for testing by the federal government: English II and U.S. History. Of the 6,172 IGC graduates failing one high school exit exam, 88 percent of students failed either the English II or U.S. History exam.
In addition, of the 4,510 students failing two EOC exams, fewer than 1 percent failed a combination of exams that did not include either the English II or U.S. History exam.
The table below shows the breakdown of the total number and percentage of IGC graduates and disaggregated data by race/national origin and socioeconomic status (SES) (percentages rounded).
That’s over 11,000 students whose diplomas would have been denied because of one or two tests.
Hazards of Tying Tests to High-stakes Consequences
We were all recently reminded of how basing high-stakes decisions solely on tests scores when the Texas Monthly published its article, “Are Texas Kids Failing? Or Are the Tests Rigged?” Their reporting revealed that, since 2012, two studies showed that the STAAR exam was testing Texas students on reading passages that were two grade levels higher than they should have been. As a result, many students who, by a number of outside measures, were able read on grade level were nevertheless assessed as “not proficient” in reading by the STAAR results.
And while the full impact is not yet clear, we can be sure of this: Students were told they were poor readers when they weren’t. Teachers were told they were doing a bad job when they weren’t. And schools received low ratings they quite possibly didn’t deserve.
National and State Trends in Testing and Opportunities under the Every Student Succeeds Act
Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was signed into law in December 2015 and replaced the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), states are merely required to test students in reading, math and science in high school as shown in the graphic we have provided (below). The federal government does not require that Texas mandate passage of these tests for graduation (high-stakes testing), nor does federal law require the additional tests noted below with an asterisk (*). Texas, itself, chooses to go beyond minimal federal requirements, expending significant state resources in the process and creating a far less efficient public school system.
To be clear, TLEC does not support the elimination of standardized testing. TLEC understands that standardized testing, when valid and reliable, provides important information for students, parents, teachers, administrators, the public and policymakers. Texas, however, has relied too extensively on a flawed testing strategy that wastes tax dollars. Previously, under the NCLB, the state was required to administer summative assessments that assessed students at the end of a unit, comparing their performance to a specific benchmark. But under the ESSA, Texas can choose to move to more formative assessments, which would allow educators to evaluate student progress at shorter intervals over a unit and adjust teaching methods in order to ensure learning is occurring. TLEC urges the state to move toward formative assessments and evaluation systems, like IGCs, that allow educators to consider a student’s entire record of performance, participation and effort.
In order to ensure that hard-working students are able get their high school diplomas and go on to be the productive, happy, successful people we all want them to be, we recommend that the committee support making individual graduation committees permanent, through HB 851.
Thank you for the opportunity to present testimony on this important issue. For questions, please contact Morgan Craven, J.D., at firstname.lastname@example.org or 210-444-1710.
The Texas Latino Education Coalition (TLEC) is a collaborative of organizations and individuals who advocate for the rights of Latino students at the local, state and national levels. The coalition was organized to focus specifically on critical educational issues in Texas and to improve the state of education for Latino students in public schools.