Prominent House public ed reform bill receives boost from Commissioner Tom Pauken

I submitted written testimony today on Texas House Bill 5. The bill, authored by House Public Education Committee Chairman Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock of Killeen, is being discussed in committee this afternoon.

HB 5 replaces the STAAR test system with one that focuses on real learning and opportunities by: A) Reducing the number of required tests from 15 to five; B) Preserving accountability in our public education system by rating schools; and C) Requiring students to pass tests in core subject areas (social studies, math, science, and English) while simultaneously reducing the emphasis on standardized testing.

 

Testimony Of Tom Pauken

Commissioner Representing Employers

Texas Workforce Commission

On House Bill 5

Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, I am Tom Pauken, Commissioner Representing Employers at the Texas Workforce Commission. Thank you for the opportunity to submit written testimony.

I would first like to thank Chairman Aycock for addressing the concerns of businesses, parents and educators about high-stakes testing and multiple pathways to higher education. Several members of the Legislature have played a key role in these issues, but I would like to thank three, in particular, who have worked with my office on these issues – Reps. Bill Callegari, John Davis, and Joe Deshotel.

For the past few years, state educational policy had become more of a “one size fits all” approach to education, oriented towards making every student “college-ready.” This elitist-designed educational policy, which viewed vocational education as a stepchild, had the unfortunate effect of choking off the pipeline of skilled workers both in Texas and nationally. Yet many young people graduate college deeply in debt, while having trouble finding decent, entry level jobs, because there is a disconnection between student majors and the needs of employers. Educators – who are on the front lines of our educational system – see a lot of young people dropping out of high school because they didn’t see the college-preparatory curriculum as relevant to them and weren’t given alternative opportunities for vocational courses.

House Bill 5 fixes this broken state education policy by providing more flexibility in graduation requirements. Students who want to work with their hands after high school graduation should be encouraged to do so. We have a shortage of skilled workers with an industry-certified credential. Yet, under the existing 4x4 graduation plan, students who engage in laudable extra-curricular activities such as band or athletics may have trouble fitting a coherent sequence of vocational education courses into their schedules.

House Bill 5 strikes a strong balance between ensuring that all high school graduates receive the basics and flexibility for students to pursue multiple career pathways. This bill still requires four years of English, three years of social studies, and three years of math, for example. But it provides a lot more flexibility for students than the existing 4x4 straightjacket.

This bill also addresses another major concern of mine – overemphasis on standardized testing. Legislators were assured the introduction of the STAAR testing program would create less emphasis on standardized testing and more emphasis on career and technical education. In practice, the reverse has occurred. Our educators want to offer students multiple educational options, but some of them are worried that – if they encourage vocational education – their scores under the STAAR testing program will start to fall. It is time to end this “teaching to the test” system that isn’t working for either the kids interested in going on to a university or for those more oriented towards learning a skilled trade.

House Bill 5 replaces it with one that focuses on real learning and opportunities for all! It reduces the number of required tests from 15 to five. It is important to note that this bill still preserves accountability in our system by rating schools and requiring students to pass tests in each of the core subject areas (social studies, math, science, and English). House Bill 5 reduces the emphasis on testing so that schools can spend more time teaching students instead of doing multiple choice testing drills.

Thank you for your hard work on this issue. Please feel free to contact my office with any questions. I look forward to continuing to work with the members of this committee to encourage more high school students to enter skilled trades and to help public schools in Texas excel.

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