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Texas NCLB testing waiver denied

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Amarillo, TX - Standardized testing has long been a point of contention between Texas educators and federal regulators, and the "No Child Left Behind" act is at the center of the debate.

The 2001 act, among other things, directs public schools to administer a designated number of tests at designated grade levels.  The idea is to establish a nationwide rubric for assessing school performance.

"I think when we do have that national umbrella of accountability, I think it does help us all come together in one standardized, uniform level of accomplishment to see that we're all on the same page, and if every state is giving their students a fair share of a good education," says Becky Pinson, Director of the Amarillo branch of Richard Milburn Academy.

Many Texas legislators, however, say the testing requirements are unnecessary and expensive.  For example, most Texas students take seventeen tests before the ninth grade, and Texas House Bill 866 sought to change that in the last legislative session.

The HRO bill analysis states, "The bill (HB 866) would allow high-performing students to focus their time and energy on learning new concepts instead of focusing every year on a test that they are expected to pass with a great deal of statistical certainty."

And the Legislative Budget Board estimated a savings of $13.4 million by administering less tests.

State Representative Ken King (R - Canadian) is on the Public Education Committee, and he voted in favor of HB 866.

"The intention behind House Bill 866 was to try to come up with a way to get rid of some over testing for kids that frankly don't need to be tested that much," said Rep. King. "I think on an education front that Texas made some really good strides this session; it's unfortunate that the federal government doesn't see it that way, but we'll try again."

However, a second waiver request was granted for high school testing requirements in Texas. Before House Bill 5 passed this year, high school students were taking up to fifteen tests - now they will take five.

Some educators welcome the new reductions, saying testing should emphasize quality over quantity.

"I think the testing will be really good if the tests are written correctly and they really address the rigor of the classroom, and really measure what a student has learned and accomplished," says Pinson.

You can see the TEA news release concerning the waiver denial or an analysis of HB 866 and HB 5 at the links attached to this story.

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