Monday, August 24, 2009

Back to School Press Conference

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: (210) 734-8937

Back to School Press Conference
Villarreal's Measures Emphasize Quality Teaching over "Drill and Kill" Testing
 
Monday August, 24th
10:00 a.m.
Hawthorne Academy
115 W. Josephine St.
San Antonio, TX 78212-4125
 
As local students head back to school, they can look forward to a little relief from the overreliance on standardized tests thanks to the work of a local lawmaker.  Earlier this year the Texas Legislature passed amendments by State Representative Mike Villarreal to ensure that students spend more days learning, devote less time to taking tests, and receive high-quality experienced teachers if their test scores show they need extra assistance.  These provisions were included in the omnibus school accountability bill, HB 3. Villarreal's measures move the state away from a system that relies on constant testing and a punitive response to low scores, and instead reduces testing and uses scores to identify which students need more resources.  Villarreal will be joined by parents and educators who will share their views on how this new law will impact local students.
 
Background:
 
Testing and accountability play an important role in our educational system, but in recent years the state's system has failed to balance accountability with other critical educational goals. Teachers spend too many days administering and preparing for tests instead of educating students so they can pass any test that comes their way.  Over the years the state has increased the punishment for low performance rather than rewarding high performance and directing resources to low-performing schools and students.  According to data that Rep. Villarreal has distributed to other lawmakers, students attending schools in low-income neighborhoods tend to have the least experienced and qualified teachers, and the school accountability system thus far has failed to remedy the inequality.
 
In 2009, Rep. Villarreal had the opportunity to serve on the Conference Committee that negotiated the final version of the reform bill for Texas's school accountability system.  While there is still a great deal more work to be done, Villarreal was pleased to include a provision that limits the number of TAKS practice testing days that local campuses and districts can impose to 10% of all instructional days.  The legislation allows parents to set the limit even lower through their campus planning committeesVillarreal was also successful in requiring the state to develop a plan to place experienced certified teachers in schools that do not perform well on the state's accountability system.  This plan will help to improve the quality of education for students who need it most. 
 
Villarreal also authored successful legislation to exempt unschooled refugee students from the TAKS test.  These refugee students have been placed at a handful of schools in San Antonio and other communities.  The Legislature further reduced the test pressure on 3rd graders and started measuring progress rather than absolute scores. 
 
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