I attended the signing ceremony yesterday at the Governor’s office, which Perry began with a few words about the six education bills he was signing: “They struck an appropriate balance between accountability and flexibility,” Perry said.
The bill everyone wanted to know about, of course, was House Bill 5, which represented a major overhaul of the high-stakes testing regime and graduation requirements. Perry had been skeptical about the bill at one time, but on this occasion he was ready with words of praise. “House Bill 5 came a long way from where it started,” he said. “We are standing our ground and not compromising our standards. We refuse to dilute our standards.”Well, maybe. I am less sanguine about the bill. Its success relies on a slender reed, and that is the ability of high school counselors to give good advice to ninth graders about their future. This interface is the point at which students will decide (with the help of counselors) whether to take the more challenging route to a diploma or to choose a career and technology path. Do I trust high school counselors to give ninth-graders sage advice? I do not. Do I trust ninth graders to make good choices? I do not. I fear that many counselors, rather than push students to choose a more rigorous path, will nudge them onto the line of least resistance.
I don’t often praise Rick Perry, but I think he deserves an “attaboy” for consistently being on the right side of the rigor debate, as does Leticia Van de Putte. I don’t think our accountability system is strong enough, and I think it is too vulnerable to cheating. The pendulum has swung too wildly. Somewhere in there is a happy medium, but I don’t think we’ve found it yet. But we’re getting closer.