Being Tested on Testing
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UPDATE: This post has been corrected to accurately reflect the graduation requirements under HB 5.
Yesterday I wrote about the Washington Post’s editorial on the changing graduation requirements that are working their way through the Legislature. I received a call yesterday from Tom Luce, who had read my post and wanted to comment on it. His reaction to HB 5 was this: “If you change the foundation curriculum, a whole generation will perpetuate into a world of minimum wage jobs.”
One of the particular concerns Luce mentioned was the bill’s plan to have counselors meet with students during their ninth grade year and help them determine whether to follow the basic–that is, the Foundation–program, which requires, in part, four English credits, three math credits, and three science credits. (The distinguished level diploma, which would make students eligible for college admission under the Top 10% rule, requires an extra math and an extra science course, among other things.) Of course, I remember my meeting with my son’s ninth grade counselor. He recommended joining the Navy, as his son had done.
Here is the question the authors of the legislation need to answer: What is the argument to remove students from the Foundation program, particularly those whose parents didn’t attend college? There isn’t one.
Luce believes that the Foundation diploma is not rigorous enough, though did approve of the effort to provide for living wage jobs. He called them “gray collar” jobs, halfway between blue and white. But even for these jobs, a certificate from a community college is required. And a huge percentage of students who attend community college do not finish. Only 20 percent, he said, end up with a certificate two years later.
What happened here, as I wrote yesterday, is that activist parents across the state decided that testing — the basis of any accountability system — has gotten out of control, and that teachers are teaching to the test. The latter charge is undoubtedly correct, but what else are they supposed to teach to, if not the subject matter that the test covers?
If there was a big mistake here, it was increasing the number of tests without providing the resources to prepare students for the test.
I leave readers with this remark from my caller: “Who, in the 21st Century, is for lessening the demand for math and science?”
The answer, I fear, is the Texas Legislature.