Bill is a step back from rigorous public schools in Texas

Posted Wednesday, Feb. 06, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

Topics: Texas

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People who believe it's too hard to get a diploma from a Texas high school are making inroads at the state Capitol.

So are people who say the testing regime set up to measure whether schools are accomplishing their educational mission has become too burdensome and punitive for young students.

The legislative answer to these complaints, it became clear Wednesday, is to make it easier to graduate, to require fewer tests and only in those subjects that are less demanding, to make accountability easier.

The so-called "four-by-four" curriculum, under which high school students have been required to achieve four credits in each of four key subject areas (English language arts, science, math and social studies) would be gone if legislation introduced Wednesday by House Public Education Committee Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, is approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Perry.

Four credits would still be required in English, but the total would be reduced to three in math, two in science and three in social studies. Students would still be required to earn two credits in a language other than English, including American Sign Language or computer programming languages.

The bill calls for eight elective credits, including one in fine arts and one in physical education.

Three tracks toward graduation (minimum, recommended and advanced) would be reduced to one, the "foundation" program.

Today's 15 state-designed end-of-course exams would be cut to four: English II, biology, Algebra I and U.S. history.

The new accountability system would give grades of A, B, C, D or F to each district and campus. The same system would grade district financial performance, and districts would name a committee to develop criteria for grading each campus on "community and student engagement."

Two decades of student assessment and school performance standards in Texas have slowly but steadily raised the bar for educational achievement. A step back may now be necessary, but not without calling it what it is. It's a decision to make schoolwork easier. Those who say education systems in other countries have surpassed those here should take notice.

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