Texas House votes to reduce state exams in lower grades
(The Texas Tribune) — Legislation reducing the number of high-stakes exams in elementary and middle school — and the time younger students must spend sitting still to take them — won the tentative approval of the Texas House on Monday.
House Bill 2836, by state Rep. Bennett Ratliff, R-Coppell, eliminates fourth- and seventh-grade writing tests and requires exams at lower grade levels to be reworked so that most students can complete them in two hours or less. It would also prohibit schools from giving more than two in-district benchmark preparation tests per state exam.
The measure passed on voice vote with no debate. An amendment from state Rep. George Lavender, R-Texarkana, which failed, would have required the state to use the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills instead of the exams developed through a state contract with Pearson, a publishing and assessment company headquartered in London.
Lavender said his amendment would have an "an American company doing our tests, not an English company."
Ratliff rejected the amendment, saying that while other bills progressing through the Legislature focused on the state's testing contract, his did not.
The No Child Left Behind Act's accountability requirements, which tie federal funding to 14 exams in grades three through eight, have hamstrung attempts at reducing testing for younger students beyond what Ratliff proposes. An initial version of his bill also dropped an eighth-grade social studies exam, but that was added back on the floor at the request of state Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, who cited the importance of assessing students' knowledge of U.S. history.
Elementary and middle school students in Texas currently take a total of 17 state exams before they enter high school. They are tested each year in grades three through eight in reading and math, and there are additional exams in science, writing and social studies, depending on the grade.
The lower chamber has already approved legislation focused on limiting state standardized exams in high school. That bill awaits consideration in the Senate.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2013/04/29/texas-house-votes-reduce-state-exams-lower-grades/.