Sunday, May 13, 2007

Florence Shapiro’s SB 1031 Arrives on the House Floor Tomorrow

The long-awaited senate bill to do away with TAKS tests in favor of less apocalyptic End of Course exams is scheduled to come to the Texas State House floor tomorrow. If passed, what it means for students is substantial relief. Currently they need to pass all four TAKS tests by the end of their senior year in order to graduate from high school. End of Course exams will bring to the schools some less lofty expectations. More students should be able to pass these tests. And even if they can’t that’s not a problem either.

It was just in the papers the other day that Texas has 40,000 senior students who will not be walking at their class’ graduation ceremony. That’s 40,000 students who don’t have the right to this rite of passage – because of TAKS.

Instead of four critical tests we have up to twelve tests. Students who graduate on the Recommended Plan will have twelve tests. The jump from four to twelve actually has a good side to it. Each End of Course test is taken at or near the end of the specific course the student is taking at that time. It counts for 15% of their grade for that class, and it is not necessary to pass all of the tests.

End of Course Tests cover what was just studied. This is as opposed to TAKS. TAKS is a cumulative knowledge set of exams that tests students over material that they may not have seen for 2 or even 3 years. Believe me, it’s asking a lot of students to recall a specific biological process 2 years after they learned about it.

End of Course Tests count in their current grade. TAKS is too long-ranged for most students to see why they should study for the tests and do well. Many sophomores and some juniors blow off the test. It’s not for a grade so why worry about it.

End of Course Tests need not all be scored at the mastery level. The average grade for all EOCs taken must be greater than or equal to 70. So a student who takes 12 classes and 12 EOCs must have a total score (of all tests) of 840. But students can tank on their Chemistry or Algebra II EOCs can still graduate because they earned an 85 on their World Geography EOC.

I think it’s a good system that is fair to students. It also can’t hurt the companies that produce standardized tests or study guides for them. Business is going to boom in that area.

But we’re talking about a bill sponsored by Florence Shapiro and I have grown to suspect that this individual cannot craft a piece of legislation without including something that is the legislative equivalent of firing grapeshot into crowds of Texas educators.

I was not wrong.

Check out Section 2 and Section 11. Section 2 adds two lines after (D)(3) of section 21.006(b) of the Texas Education Code:

“(4) the educator engaged in conduct that violated the assessment instrument security procedures established under Section 39.0301.”

What? There IS no Section 39.301 in the TEC. Oh, but that’s where section 11 of Shapiro’s bill comes into play. Section 11 creates section 39.301, 39.302 and 39.303

I won’t bore you with the details, but basically what it does is define all sorts of things with regard to test security. It essentially puts into law the processes that went on this past year involving Caveon Test Security when they audited hundreds of school districts for suspected TAKS cheating and fraud. They use “Data Forensics” that reveal “aberrant patterns”. Someone sold the TEA, and I guess Florence Shapiro, a load of horse manure.

So we are writing this pseudoscience into law now?

The bill goes further. The Education Commissioner can issue subpoenas for an investigation, and failure to comply results in a court punishment. It then lays out the different offenses one may be tried and convicted of in regard to test security:

“(1) the person discloses the contents of any portion of a secure assessment instrument developed or administered under this subchapter, including the answer to any item in the assessment instrument; and

(2) the disclosure affects or is likely to affect the individual performance of one or more students on the assessment instrument.”

What is the punishment if convicted? The offense is a Class C misdemeanor, and as we all found out when Shelley Sekula-Gibbs repeatedly violated the Texas Election Code; a Class C misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of no more than $500 dollars.

And oh, yes, your teaching credential is pulled by the SBEC.

That latter bit is what can happen right now if teachers are caught compromising the security of a TAKS test. Their teaching credential can be taken away.

Florence Shapiro doesn’t think its enough to deprive teachers of their livelihood and careers.

She wants their $500 bucks, too.

No comments: