Local state rep to introduce test reform bill in January

By Moses Leos III

A local state representative’s quest to reform standardized testing in Texas is gaining traction, as language within a proposed bill for the 85th Legislative Session in 2017 is being finalized.

State Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) is calling for a bill that would allow school districts to select any “nationally normed standardized testing system” that meets Texas curriculum standards instead of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR).

Earlier this month, Isaac called for reform after a variety of issues surrounding the 2016 STAAR test were discovered.

According to a press release, Isaac said his legislation would “clearly state” that eligible tests must be nationally normed and comply with Texas’ curriculum standards, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).

The bill would also call on the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to request a waiver from the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the successor of No Child Left Behind.

According to a release from Isaac, ESSA is the “souce of many of the inflexible testing regulations school districts are held to.”

Isaac cited specific requirements, including identical statewide exams for elementary and middle schools, but not high schools.

“The Texas state of mind has always favored local control,” Isaac said in the release. “No Child Left Behind and ESSA have failed our students. It’s time for the Lone Star State to push back at the federal government’s heavy-handed regulations and allow our locally elected school board members the autonomy to select the test provider that best meets their schools’ and students’ needs.”

Isaac said he was “pleased” with positive feedback he received from “not only the district I serve, but also from people all across the State of Texas.”

According to the release, several legislators have indicated interest in supporting Isaac’s new proposed bll, which he plans to file when the next legislative session begins in January.

“It’s become increasingly clear that top-down, one-size-fits-none testing doesn’t work for our schools or for our students,” Issac said in the release.

Issac said it was “time to put the ‘independent’ back in ‘independent school district’”and allow free-market principles to “decrease costs and increase quality in standardized tests.”

“It’s the least we can do to support our hard-working students and their families in light of the appalling errors they were forced to put up with during the last administration of STAAR,” Isaac said.

As a public school district in Texas, Hays CISD will honor the decisions of the legislature for school districts and accountablilty assessments, Tim Savoy, Hays CISD public information officer, said in an emailed reponse. According to Savoy, some form of standardized testing can be an important component in the accountability formula.

“We appreciate Representative Isaac’s interest in the issue and the work he conducts on behalf of our students and teachers,” Savoy said. “We look forward to seeing his completed proposal and the forthcoming discussions in the upcoming legislative session.”

But Hays CISD is also working to develop a community-based accountability system that will measure a broader set of parameters, according to Savoy. Those measurements would go beyond a single test or series of tests.

Later this month, Hays CISD will host a series of strategic planning summits, including a new accountability system.

Savoy said the district wants the community to determine what are the “most important elements in its school district.”

“As our district continues its visioning, strategic planning, and community-based accountability processes, we hope our parents, teachers, employees, and taxpayers will join us in the conversations,” Savoy said.

Stay informed

Hays CISD will host a series of strategic planning summits, which are open to the public.

• Tuesday, Sept. 27, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at Hays High School

• Wednesday, Sept. 28, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Kimbro Building (next to Kyle Elementary School)

• Wednesday, Sept. 28, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at Lehman High School

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