This year's legislative session was a busy one for education-related topics.
School finance. Testing. Property taxes. Safety. Teacher retirement.
It had it all.
HB3 is a large tome-like bill that has everything to do with school finance. It is long. It is complicated. It is not the topic of this post.
HB3906 is very brief---11 pages in total---but it outlines a few significant changes for STAAR in the upcoming years.
Because this bill was in one form when it left the House, and then another when it left the Senate, and then ANOTHER form when it left the conference committee, there seems to be a TON of misinformation out there related to this bill.
Is it getting rid of stand-alone writing? Are all tests now three days? Will everything be computerized? Are we testing in kindergarten now?
What follows is the official changes taken from the enrolled version of the bill that went to Governor Abbott's desk.
HB3906 has eleven sections, seven of which implement any real changes. I'm going to outline the primary changes from those seven sections along with their effective date and their overall implications.
Section 1: ASSESSMENT PROGRAM
Change: Stipulates that it is now the policy of the state to have an assessment program that: A) utilizes assessment instruments "that are as short as practicable"; and B) "minimize the disruption to the educational program."
Effective Date: 2019-2020 school year (i.e. immediately)
Implications: Nothing is really changed by this wording because none of these terms---"short as practicable" or "minimize the disruption"---are defined; however, when you get to section three, you'll see what the legislators had in mind.
Section 2: ADOPTION AND ADMINISTRATION OF ASSESSMENTS
Change: Eliminates the 4th and 7th grade writing STAAR assessments. It also strikes the wording related to "with/without the aid of technology" from the grades 3-8 math assessments.
Effective Date: September 1, 2021 (i.e. two years from now)
Implications: Nothing is eliminated immediately. We'll still have the writing assessments for two years. If you read somewhere that they were adding writing questions to the reading tests in 4th and 7th grades, that did not make it into the final bill.
The "with/without aid" language is clarified in section three.
Section 3: ADOPTION AND ADMINISTRATION OF ASSESSMENTS
NOTE: This section no doubt has the most immediate implications for how STAAR will change in the upcoming school year. There are nine big changes. I'll address them individually.
Effective Date for All Nine Changes: 2019-2020 school year
Change #1: Adds language that allows the State Board of Education to "designate sections of a mathematics assessment instrument for a grade level" that may be completed with the aid of technology or must be completed without the aid of technology.
Implication #1: Most likely a sign that calculators are going to appear as an option for earlier grade levels.
Change #2: Adds language that indicates an assessment instrument "may not have more than three parts."
Implication #2: Opens the door for segmenting the tests into small parts that students will take over multiple days, with the obvious limit being three days (because of the "three part" limit).
Change #3: Modifies assessment length language, indicating that a "part" for a 3rd and 4th grade assessment must be able to be completed by 85% of students within 60 minutes (down from 120 minutes for the entire assessment instrument) and a "part" of a 5th through 8th grade assessment must be able to be completed by 85% of students within 75 minutes (down from 180 minutes for the entire assessment instrument).
Implication #3: Simply builds on Change #2. By breaking the assessment into smaller parts, they obviously felt a shorter time limit was needed for each part. If you played this out as an example, what may have been a single two-hour reading test last year could now be two one-hour reading tests that take place on two different days.
Change #4: Modifies assessment length language, indicating that an assessment no longer has to be completed in one day but instead "may occur in multiple parts over more than one day."
Implication #4: Again, simply building on the previous two changes. One day tests are no longer required. Tests can span more than one day. I think it's interesting that they didn't specify that those days had to be consecutive...
Change #5: Adds language indicating that the Algebra I EOC "may include one or more parts that prohibit the use of technology."
Implication #5: The Algebra I EOC, at some point, will have a "part" that is calculator free.
Change #6: Strikes language related to the English I and English II EOC assessments that required reading and writing to be in the same assessment instrument.
Implication #6: Builds on the "part" concept. Imagine students taking the reading "part" of their English I EOC on one day and the writing "part" on another day. That's what this does.
Change #7: Adds language allowing for EOC assessments to take place in "multiple parts over more than one day."
Implication #7: Read Implication #6 above.
Change #8: Adds language prohibiting state assessments on "the first instructional day of the week."
Implication #8: No tests on Mondays. (Or Tuesdays, I guess, if there was a holiday on Monday.)
Change #9: Adds language indicating that by 2022-2023, assessment instruments "may not present more than 75 percent of the questions in multiple choice format."
Implication #9: This is a doozy. Very broad language that leaves the door open for short answers appearing on every test. Also, the "75 percent" language will need to be clarified. As it stands now, this language would imply that for a 40 question test, 10 of those questions would need to be in a format other than multiple choice. For math, griddables would seem to satisfy that requirement. But for the other subjects...short answers? Essays? Outside of the obvious impact on instruction, my mind jumps directly to the scoring process. Seems like this would place a HUGE burden on our testing contractors. And I mean HUGE.
Section 4: ADVISORY COMMITTEES FOR ASSESSMENT INSTRUMENTS
Change: Adds language creating two new advisory committees that would report to the commissioner and TEA:
1) Technical Advisory Committee that provides advice on the validity and reliability of the assessment instruments. Members are required to be experts on educational assessments and psychometrics.
2) Educator Advisory Committee that provides advice on the development of "academically appropriate assessments"
Effective Date: 2019-2020 school year
Implications: Two committees that will most likely provide advice that is almost always in conflict. This is probably a good thing, though. If their meeting minutes are as detailed and available as some of the other advisory committees, this is most definitely a good thing when it comes to oversight for test development.
Section 5: ELECTRONIC ADMINISTRATION OF ASSESSMENT INSTRUMENTS
Change: Adds language indicating that all assessments must be "capable" of being administered electronically.
Effective Date: 2019-2020 school year
Implications: The key word here is "capable." For the most part, all of the assessments are already available in electronic format, so this isn't big news. Section six is bigger news.
Section 6: TRANSITION TO ELECTRONIC ADMINISTRATION OF ASSESSMENT INSTRUMENTS
Change: Requires TEA and the State Board of Education to develop a transition plan for administering all assessments electronically "beginning not later than the 2022-2023 school year."
Effective Date: 2019-2020 school year (for the development of the transition plan)
Implications: The details of what has to be in the transition plan paint a pretty clear picture of what the legislators expect to be an issue with making this change actually happen. They are requiring an evaluation of Internet access for each school district, identification of laws and policies that need to change in order to improve Internet access, an evaluation of how online testing has gone so far, and an identification of ways TEA has already improved online testing. TEA and the SBOE have to submit a report to the governor, lieutenant governor, and the legislators basically outlining the needs of school districts and a timeline for actually implementing this plan. That report is due 12/1/2020. Expect to see lots of bills introduced during the next legislative session based on what's in that 12/1/2020 report.
Section 7: USE OF CALCULATOR APPLICATION IN PLACE OF GRAPHING CALCULATOR
Change: School districts can allow students who are in a course that requires a graphing calculator to use a calculator application on a personal/laptop computer or a tablet.
Effective Date: 2019-2020 school year
Implications: Nothing big here. I would imagine many districts have already utilized some of these options. This could be viewed as a step towards preparing districts and students for using graphing applications on a computer for online testing. That's just my opinion, though...
Those are the primary changes that will actually matter to most school districts.
There is another part of section six that discusses a pilot program for "integrated formative assessments." These assessments will be optional, and they will not fulfill a district's obligation regarding the administration of STAAR.
Basically, it's just an expansion of the current writing pilot but for additional subjects (at least that's how it reads).
If you're a lover of truth and have read about changes that contradict what I've written above, feel free to read the full bill and verify my analysis. If you confirm that I've outlined everything correctly, please share this article so that we can get everyone on the same page about what they can expect next year.