By GREG RUSSELL
Register Staff Writer
Some school officials feel the effects of recent state-mandated changes in testing curriculum remain to be seen — and cite possibilities good and otherwise.
Monday’s signature of House Bill 5 by Gov. Rick Perry ensures that the number of end-of-course tests in Texas high schools will wane from 15 to five.
The measure was authored by Rep. Jimmie Aycock [R-Killeen] and Rep. Dwayne Bohac [R-Houston] as a legislative response to a perceived overemphasis on testing among high school students. And by reducing the number of tests students are required to satisfy, the bill is also intended to expand curriculum options for teenagers who prefer classes more oriented to careers in technical trades.
“House Bill 5 will not only reduce the overemphasis on testing, it will also provide opportunities for students to obtain skills necessary for productive jobs,” Aycock said this week.
During the next year, students will undergo end-of-course exams only in English I-II, biology, algebra I and U.S. History as opposed to exams in 15 separate subjects throughout the four high school grades. The new bill has no effect on younger students.
Gainesville Independent School District Superintendent Jeff Brasher said as with many other changes, the results will be mixed.
“There’s always a lot of unexpected consequences, both positive and negative,” Brasher said Wednesday. “In some ways, this is a good thing because you have fewer testing days and more instruction. On the other hand, there’s less accountability. You change the urgency and the energy and the focus placed on teaching that course.”
Brasher said the strength of school testing remains in how it affects the learning process prior to any testing taking place. If students can still expect to be tested in a subject, he said, they’re less likely to dismiss their teachers.
“That may impact some teachers more than others,” he said.
Though Brasher admitted he has mixed feelings about the reduction of testing, he added that he has no problem with another measure of House Bill 5, which is that it eliminates the policy that the remaining end-of-course exams count for 15 percent of a student’s final grade.
“That 15 percent rule wasn’t very clearly thought out by the Legislature,” he said Wednesday. “I don’t think any schools could make it work. They had good intentions, but good intentions don’t always work.”
The change in state policy hasn’t been a formal item of discussion during regular Gainesville ISD Board of Trustees meetings, but Brasher said an information workshop is planned for the near future.
But despite the change, he said, Gainesville administration will provide the same efforts.
“We intend to do our very best to make sure the children of Gainesville ISD and Gainesville High School are going to be supplied with first-class education and make sure they’re prepared for college and prepared for the path they choose after high school,” Brasher said. ”We’re going to continue to work as hard as we always have to make sure they’re prepared.”