TCTA testified before the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability on Feb. 23, 2016, offering suggestions for how to design a new state testing and accountability system that encompasses better measures of student learning and a more holistic view of campus and school district performance. (Click here to watch video testimony. TCTA testimony starts at the 06:02:45 mark.) TCTA impressed upon the commission that it must first address the fundamental question of what it is we want to use the tests for, and then build a testing and accountability system around the identified purposes that the tests will serve. TCTA cautioned that in the past, failure to clearly identify the purposes for testing has led to the state test being used for too many purposes for which it was never designed, resulting in the tests playing far too big a role in education decisions and a proliferation of testing.

TCTA also offered other ideas for the design of a new testing and accountability system, suggesting that the number of required state tests should be reduced to the level required by federal law, that the use of tests for high-stakes purposes should be minimized, that the tests should accurately assess what is taught and be validated for each purpose used, and that the system be structured so that intrusions on instructional time are minimized.

Regarding the accountability system, TCTA recommended reducing the weight placed on student performance on state tests by including other academic and non-academic measures in the system, such as a “learning environment” index in which indicators such as the percentage of teachers assigned out of field and the number of class-size waivers are included, as well as factoring in consideration of the percentage of high-need student population that the school or district serves in determining accountability ratings.

The commission also heard from several panels of invited witnesses regarding college and career readiness, as well as a panel that presented the recommendations of the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium.

The Feb. 23 meeting was the second in a series of monthly meetings scheduled by the commission, which was created by legislation in 2015 to make recommendations for new state assessment and accountability systems to the governor and legislature by Sept. 1, 2016.

Future scheduled meetings for the commission include:

  • March 23, 2016
  • April 20, 2016
  • May 25, 2016
  • July 27, 2016

TCTA will continue to monitor and report on developments as the commission moves forward in formulating its recommendations.