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Texas Education Commissioner Campaigns For Reducing High-Stakes Exams

Christopher C. Leonard

State Education Commissioner Michael Williams has been campaigning over the weekend to reducing the number of high-stakes exams required for graduation. 

At a business luncheon put on by the Texas Association of Businesses, Williams spoke about reducing the number of end-of-course exams from the current number of 15 tests.

"It may or may not be appropriate for us as a state to have 15 end-of-course exams in high school, but I do think 5 is too few. And I think 5 is too few particularly if we are talking about English I and English II, Algebra I, Biology and American History," Williams said.

House Bill 5, a bill co-sponsored by Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, lowers the the current number of exams to five.

Some criticize that lower the number of high-stakes tests and allowing school districts to use a percentage of a teacher’s evaluation on those scores creates a perfect storm for having a similar occurrence to the Cheating Scandal that happened recently in Atlanta, Georgia’s school district.

"But that has to be a lesser concern than I have for whether we are getting youngsters prepared for the 21st century.  That’s our principal concern, is getting youngsters prepared," Williams said.

Williams said the TEA needs to implement a system to catch teachers and administrators who may be pressured to inflate end-of-course exam scores and also make sure that school districts do not provide perverse incentives that may lead to cheating.