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Educators celebrate law reducing number of end-of-course exams in high school

DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR

MARBLE FALLS — After the state enacted standards two years ago requiring Texas high school students to endure 15 end-of-course exams during their four years, state leaders forced a reversal during the 2013 session and passed legislation slashing that requirement by 10.

On June 10, Gov. Rick Perry signed House Bill 5 into law. As he did, many educators and students probably breathed a sigh of relief.

“House Bill 5 is a great bill,” said Marble Falls Independent School District Superintendent Rob O’Connor. “It reduces the amount of testing, which we much needed at the high school.”

Under the previous requirements, students had to take 15 end-of-course exams to graduate.

In 2007, Texas legislatures revamped the state testing and accountability standards. While students starting in third grade began taking standardized tests, high school students bore a heavy load with 15 during the four-year period.

Both educators and parents became concerned about the amount of testing. When the Legislature convened in January, Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen) introduced HB5, which quickly gained support both at the Capitol and beyond it.

But not everybody is enthused with HB5.

Texas Association of Business officials criticized the measure. Executive Director Bill Hammond said after the Senate’s passage of HB5 in May the bill wouldn’t help students prepare for college and life beyond it.

“We already graduate only 25 percent of students who are career or college ready,” he said in a May 6 news release. “I don’t understand why many of our lawmakers are dead set on running way from strong requirements meant to increase that number and put in place standards that will do just the opposite.”

HB5 doesn’t just address student testing, it also changes the high school graduation requirements.

Under previous rules, Texas public high school students had to complete what was called the 4-by-4 when it came to core classes. This meant students had to earn four credits in each of the core classes: math, science, English and social studies. HB5 loosens those requirements a bit. Student still must earn four English credits but only three in each of the other core subject areas.

The new law does allow for students to chose more challenging degree plans that would require four credits in each of the core subjects.

“It’s an important step in the right direction,” O’Connor said. “It allows students more flexibility to select career pathways and helps them prepare for careers of their choice.”

daniel@thepicayune.com