The Texas Legislature has adjourned sine die for the 2019 session. Many of the bills that I was watching do what most bills do – die somewhere along the legislative pipeline. Please join me in a moment of silence for them.
- HB1182/SB686 – changed Personal Financial Literacy from an elective to a required course – died in the House Calendars Committee
- HB2983 – required testing only at benchmark (3, 5, and 8) grades – died in Senate Education Committee
- HB4242 – required STAAR to be on-grade level, among other things – died in the Senate Education Committee
- HB663 – initially required TEKS streamlining as well as capping Proclamations at 75% of IMA – died on the Senate floor
- HB1480 – major changes to SSI – died on the Senate floor
- SB1453 – required use of cell phone/mobile device apps in lieu of requiring students to purchase a graphing calculator – died on the House floor, however its language was amended onto HB3906
Some bills are on Governor Abbott’s desk. He has until June 16 to sign, veto, or allow the bills to become law without his signature. If you have an opinion one way or the other, you’re always welcome to contact the Governor’s Office.
- HB4310 – denies districts the ability to penalize a teacher for not following the district scope and sequence as long as the teacher has determined that students need less/more time than allocated to demonstrate proficiency of the TEKS in that section of the scope and sequence. However, the Senate added a subsection that districts may take appropriate action if the result is from an observed and documented “deficiency in classroom instruction.” So no free pass for a teacher who didn’t use the allocated time effectively as long as the actions were documented.
- SB1374 – allows students to take Algebra 1 and Geometry concurrently (removes Algebra 1 prerequisite from Geometry)
- HB3906 – multiple changes to STAAR (more below)
I do think it’s worth noting that the 86th Texas Legislature had a significantly different tone than previous Legislatures have. The mood of this Legislature was not cranky and vengeful; rather, they invested an additional $11.6 billion in additional school funding and school district property tax replacement. Perhaps that is because educators showed up at the ballot box in November 2018 and expressed their desires? I am still digging into HB3 (it’s 569 pages of school finance, y’all!) but overall it looks good. Now that the lawmaking for this season is done, if you’re particularly pleased with how a bill turned out, pat your legislator on the back. Let them know you appreciate their hard work and support of public education. They’re human, too, and everyone needs to know when they’ve done their jobs well.
For this blog entry, I’m focusing on K-12 mathematics pieces. Specifically, HB3906 as it impacts mathematics.
HB3906 – Changes to STAAR
Governor Abbott has not yet signed or vetoed HB3906, so it still isn’t necessarily law. If he does sign it, then there will be some changes in coming years. The fiscal note for HB3906 provides a quick summary of the goals of this bill. Below is my analysis.
HB3906 requires any state testing to be “as short as practicable” and to “minimize the disruption to the educational program” (Section 1 of HB3906). STAAR will also be broken into no more than 3 parts. Students in grades 3-4 should be able to complete each part of the test within 60 minutes and in grades 5-8 in 75 minutes. The Algebra 1 EOC may also be administered in “multiple parts over more than one day” (Section 3). Commissioner Mike Morath spoke to CREST (Texas ELAR leaders) earlier this spring and showed us what STAAR administered over multiple days might look like. The images below came from that presentation which was posted online.
Elementary Grades 3-5
- Three parts
- one part that is 55 minutes with some multiple choice items and a performance task
- two parts that are each 20 minutes with some multiple choice items
Middle Grades 6-8
- Three parts
- one part that is 60 minutes with some multiple choice items and a performance task
- two parts that are each 25 minutes with some multiple choice items
Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 EOC’s
- Don’t panic. Algebra 2 EOC is still voluntary.
- Three parts
- one part that is 45 minutes with some multiple choice items
- two parts that are each 30 minutes with some multiple choice items
- no performance task specified
Interestingly, Section 3 (c-8) requires that beginning with the 2022-23 school year, state assessments must limit multiple choice questions to 75% of the number of questions. For math, that means that 25% of the questions (not the time taken on the test, but the questions themselves) must be constructed response – either a performance task or a griddable item. The Commissioner’s plan presented at CREST in April 2019 does not seem to meet that guideline.
I like the idea of including a performance task on STAAR. Many other states (such as Louisiana or Massachusetts) do this. It will require some teacher learning on how to prepare students for this, including how the items will be scored on a rubric. However, it adds a rich dimension to how STAAR assesses what students know, so if the state invests in this professional learning, then I think our students will be well served.
Defined Role of Technology
The State Board of Education may designate sections of a mathematics assessment, at any grade level, to be completed with the aid of technology or without the aid of technology. Previously the use of “technology” was limited to 8th grade or Algebra. That seems to no longer be the case.
As well, the language from SB1453, the “Desmos for All” bill, was attached to HB3906. As such, schools can no longer require students to purchase graphing calculators. If they want students to use graphing calculators, then they must provide them. Otherwise, students should be allowed to use “calculator applications,” such as Desmos or GeoGebra which are both free for schools and students to use, on a computing device with the same functionality.
The Texas Legislature has now established a goal of moving to an all-online administration of STAAR by the 2022-23 school year. Given ETS’s history with online testing (2016 and 2018), I can’t wait to see how this turns out. HB3906 calls for TEA to develop a transition plan by December 2020 for implementation in the 2021-22 school year.
Formative Assessment Pilot
HB3906 creates a pilot for an “integrated formative assessment” program. This would be voluntary for school districts to use and the intent is to study whether or not the formative assessments that were piloted provided improvement in instructional support for two school years. The Legislature could use the results of the pilot to determine whether or not to replace the current STAAR program with a series of formative assessments during the year. This idea bears watching!
Thou shalt not test prekindergarteners or kindergarteners. That proposal was in the Senate’s version of HB3, was stripped from HB3 in conference committee, and went nowhere.
Students’ writing performance, currently tested at Grades 4 and 7 and on English I and II EOC’s, may be assessed using a classroom portfolio method. That’s not math-related, but I thought it was interesting nonetheless. If it works for writing, I’m wondering how it might work for mathematics vis-a-vis performance tasks.