From the desk of Dr. Kirk Lewis

Updates from the Superintendent

The Tipping Point in Testing


Teachers and administrators have grown increasingly frustrated at the high stakes testing pushed by the State of Texas in recent years. I think the introduction of the STAAR exam and the explosion of end-of-course exams linked so closely to graduation finally brought the issue to its tipping point with parents. It’s great to see common sense returning to the system.

 Representative Jimmy Don Aycock from Kileen and the Honorable Dan Patrick from Houston, both of whom chair the education committees in the Texas House and Senate, respectively, have championed a major change in graduation requirements and the amount of testing required for our high schools students. The House passed a bill this week that reduced the number of required end-of-course exams to five: Algebra I, Biology, U.S. History and English II (with a separate Writing exam). That is welcomed news. The Senate version of the bill adds two additional tests including English I with its separate writing exam. Debate continues on the merits of adding Algebra II into the mix. What seems clear now is that the number of tests required in high school will be reduced from 15 to somewhere between 5 to 8 exams. The provision for testing in late May instead of April will give teachers additional time to cover the material. That’s welcomed news for students, teachers, and campus administrators.

The House bill’s shift in graduation requirements also gives students greater choice and flexibility in pursuing a diploma plan that more closely matches their college or career interests. The current requirement that every student take four years of math, science, English and social studies limited student options, particularly for those interested in a career or technical field. Under the House plan and versions proposed in the Senate, students are required to take four years of English, but only three years in the other core subjects, enabling them to take more electives in areas of personal interest. To maintain the push for rigor in all areas, diploma endorsements will be encouraged in the areas of arts and humanities, business and industry, public services, science and math and multidisciplinary studies.

This has been a good week for public education in Texas. Now, the legislature just needs to finish the good work by reducing the number of tests required in grades 3-8. Another bill. Another day. Keep contacting your legislators.

Author: Dr. Kirk Lewis

Dr. Kirk Lewis serves as Superintendent of the Pasadena Independent School District, a position he has held since April, 2006. Over the past 26 years Dr. Lewis has served as the Deputy Superintendent for Administration, Public Relations and Governmental Affairs; Executive Director for Communications and Community Relations; and Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent.

3 thoughts on “The Tipping Point in Testing

  1. Dr. Lewis,

    Your comments are right on point. The number of tests required in high schools created numerous problems from both a logistical and common sense point of view. Perhaps now schools can refocus efforts on teaching TEKS with appropriate depth and rigor and not spend countless hours in the administration assessments that steal time from quality instruction. The balance in the new legislation is a move in the right direction (as is the new rigorous standards set by STAAR). Now we must lobby legislators to adequately fund Texas schools so we may truly met the needs of all our special populations.

    Tim Moon
    PHS Grad of 1980 and current principal of Ed Downs Elementary School in San Benito, Texas

    • The movement in the House is positive. There are still those in higher education and in some the high tech industries pushing to maintain something close to the same system with too many tests and too little flexibility in graduation requirements. We need to keep the pressure on the legislators. In the end, I think we’ll see a positive compromise for high schools. The next step is reducing the testing in grades 3-8. We’ve not heard as much talk about that yet. I’m happy to see another successful graduate of our schools. Thanks for all you do for the students you serve.

  2. Dr. Lewis,

    Thanks for the response and the kind words. My God, parents and my wife get credit for any success I may have obtained, but the best is still to come. And of course I cannot discount good old Red Bluff Elementary School, Southmore Intermediate and Lonnie B. Keller’s Pasadena High School. Mr. Keller ensured the shirt was tucked and belt was on! Kim (my wife–also a 1980 PHS grad) and I do not feel dressed without a belt.

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