Update: April 25, 2019
As April comes to an end, we have several approaching mass extinctions of bills. There are approaching deadlines when bills die en masse, which is what the process is designed to do.
- May 6: Last day for House Bills to clear House Committees (any bill that doesn’t get voted out of committee dies)
- May 17: Last day for House Bills to pass full House (here’s where the filibuster gets fun since any house bill not passed by midnight dies)
- May 18: Last day for Senate Bills to clear House Committees (more dead bills if they don’t get voted out of committee)
- May 22: Last day for Senate Bills to pass full House (more midnight filibuster fun!) and for Senate to consider all bills.
- May 27: Adjournment
When the end of the session approaches, things will begin to move quickly. Both the House and Senate are laser-focused right now on school finance, so that’s going to take the lion’s share of their time and energy. As it should. It’s too important not to get right. I’ll update this page or subsequent pages as things develop.
Math Curriculum Bills
HB663: TEKS Revision
HB663 requires TEKS revision (streamlining) and allows the SBOE to set a schedule to do so. This is an improvement over the original version that required all streamlining by 2022 (see my blog post on HB663 here). I can live with that since mathematics is scheduled for revision in 2023 anyway and there is near universal agreement that while our mathematics TEKS are strong, there are some places where we clearly need revision. My original objection was twofold: (1) mathematics doesn’t streamline well, and (2) an arbitrary deadline forces good people to rush and make bad decisions. Both of these objections have been addressed prior to House passage, so I think we have a good bill that gives the SBOE clear guidance on what the Legislature intends for the TEKS to be.
So here are the main ideas of the HB663 that passed the Texas House.
- SBOE shall (read: thou shalt) review the TEKS for each foundation curriculum area and revise them to:
- be more narrow in scope than they were on January 1, 2019
- require less time for mastery of the full set of TEKS at a grade level
- SBOE must (another fun word) ensure that any revisions before September 2022 do not trigger a need for adopting new instructional materials. In practice, this means streamlining since you can’t add content to a grade level without triggering new instructional materials.
- SBOE shall adopt a schedule to do this review and revision. They have a schedule now, so I’m hoping this would comply with HB663 should it become law.
- Allows the SBOE to issue a full call for instructional materials, a supplemental call, a call for new information demonstrating alignment of already-adopted materials to new or expanded TEKS, or a combination thereof. This could be a good way to reduce costs of future proclamations.
- Any proclamation cannot exceed 75% of IMA money, leaving the remaining for technology or other IMA-allowable purposes.
Bottom line: We’re going to revise mathematics TEKS with or without this bill. Unless the Senate does something crazy with it, we’ll be OK if this bill does or doesn’t become law.
Status: Passed the House and has been referred to the Senate Education Committee.
HB1182: Personal Financial Literacy
It’s baaaack! I thought personal financial literacy (PFL) had been settled when we included it as a strand in K-8 math, created a Financial Mathematics high school mathematics course that counts as “advanced math” on the Foundation diploma, and created a 0.5 credit social studies elective course. I was mistaken.
HB1182 and its companion bill SB686 change the graduation requirements to include 0.5 credit in “personal financial literacy” for all students, sort of like the 0.5 credit that Health used to be. The version that passed the House includes some flexibility in using existing courses that already include PFL to meet this content. It will be a fun SBOE meeting to determine how to amend Chapter 74 for that flexibility, but that’s an opportunity for entertainment for another day.
Pros: Everyone, including our elected officials, could benefit from a better understanding of personal finance. This is good information for our kids to have so that they will be able to better take care of themselves and their families.
Cons: The former school administrator in me immediately thought about staffing. We will need to train teachers to teach this course, create room on the master schedule, hire more teachers to teach this course, and purchase instructional materials for this course. What was once an elective now becomes a requirement for all high school students. We’re going to be scaling up quite quickly.
Bottom line: Looks like a well-intentioned unfunded mandate to me.
Status: Passed the House and has been referred to the Senate Education Committee.
SB1374: Algebra 1 and Geometry
This short bill allows students to take Algebra 1 and Geometry concurrently. On the surface, sounds good, right? Some students need to accelerate. However, trusted colleagues in school districts have pointed out that students really do need Algebra 1 skills in order to be successful in other high school mathematics courses, including Geometry. I think they’re right.
Bottom line: I’m not sure this is beneficial when you look a little deeper.
Status: Left pending in the Senate Education Committee.
STAAR is a favorite punching bag for legislators and this year we have a bumper crop of bills that roll back assessment. We have a full range of bills (HB4591 totally eliminates all testing) but most of them eliminate social studies or writing. Some tinker with the edges of testing and who retakes what test. Here are the ones that have made the most progress so far.
HB2983: Testing Lite
HB2983 rolls back mathematics testing to only Grades 3, 5, and 8. Students in 4th, 6th, or 7th grade would take a test only if they failed the one before. This bill also calls for the commissioner to develop a formula that allows TEA to predict a student’s likelihood of remaining on grade level in the off years. I know what you’re saying – this isn’t compatible with ESSA and federal law. And you’re right. So HB2983 directs the commissioner to seek an ESSA waiver. I’m skeptical of using a grade-level test to predict future success. We’ve tried doing that with STAAR Reading and ended up with a 3rd grade test that’s written at the 5th grade level.
Bottom line: Psychometrics is a pretty nifty thing, but I can’t shake the feeling that this stretches the boundary a little too far. I don’t trust it. But this bill could be a good compromise on a remedy for excessive testing.
Status: Passed the House Public Education Committee and waiting for assignment to a calendar for a full House vote.
HB1480: Major Changes to Student Success Initiative
In essence, HB1480 repeals what we have come to know and love about SSI.
- The requirement for students to pass Grade 5 and Grade 8 Math STAAR is gone (likewise for Reading at Grades 3, 5, and 8, but this is a math blog, so I’m going to stick with what I know).
- Thus, we no longer need 2nd or 3rd administrations of Grade 5 or Grade 8 Math STAAR.
- We also no longer need Grade Placement Committees, so they’re gone, too.
Instead, if a student doesn’t pass a given grade’s math (or reading) test, the district will create an Accelerated Learning Committee to determine why a student wasn’t successful and then make a plan to catch them back up next year.
I honestly see both sides to this bill. It would be good to return Grade 5 and Grade 8 STAAR to the end of the year, giving us more instructional time before “the test.” However, we have a system that forces schools to identify learning needs for particular students and affords them the chance to allocate resources to address those needs before students fall farther behind. I’m concerned that an accelerated learning plan to catch them up next year may not be successful without proper support (and funding) from the state. We’ve tried that approach before, and it didn’t work; hence, the development of SSI back in the day.
Bottom line: There may be better ways to support students than eliminating some fail-safes that we’ve built in to the system.
Status: Passed the House and referred to the Senate Education Committee.
SB1453: Desmos for All!
Full disclosure: I’ve done some consulting for Texas Instruments and have a great working relationship with them. Good people who really care about education. That said, SB1453 is pretty cool. It requires districts to allow students to use cell phone apps in lieu of purchasing graphing calculators unless the district provides the graphing calculator. The rationale here is that some districts are requiring students to purchase expensive graphing calculators when there are much less expensive graphing technologies on phones and tablets, such as Desmos. You can use Desmos (with certain testing safeguards) on standardized testing, so it makes sense that students should be able to use it or something like it in classroom instruction. Districts may need to revise cell phone policies if SB1453 becomes law.
Bottom line: I like bills like this one that give students more options.
Status: Passed the Senate and waiting for referral to the House Public Education Committee.