Re-grading the test

Standardized testing took another hit in the Capitol Wednesday, when Senate lawmakers voted unanimously to do away with the so-called 15-percent requirement.

Already deferred by the Commissioner of Education twice, it requires school districts to count the results of the STAAR test as 15 percent of a student’s final grade. Wednesday’s bill would leave that decision up to individual school districts.

The same day, Republican Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock filed an expansive education bill in the House. It, too, includes ending the 15-percent requirement.

“We get in situations where [students] may pass their courses, but not their end-of-year exam and not graduate,” Rep. Aycock said. “So they have lots of opportunities to keep them from graduating, and we’re looking to reduce those obstacles somewhat.”

The House bill also lowers the number of required tests for high school students from 15 to five, a change Sen. Kel Seliger is pushing for on the Senate side as well.

We also spoke to a representative of the Texas Classroom Teachers Association, who pointed out that similar changes were adopted during the group’s annual convention.

“It’s in line with our overall desire to reduce the emphasis on high-stakes testing in this state,” Holly Eaton with TCTA said.

How we got here

The bigger story hovering over all these changes is the recent ruling on school funding. Monday, a state District Judge ruled the system for funding education in Texas violates the state constitution. It’s one of several decisions dating back to a 1989 ruling known as Edgewood Independent School District v. Kirby.

In that case, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF, filed a suit against the commissioner of education claiming students in poorer districts weren’t getting equal funding compared to students in wealthier districts. Capital Tonight spoke to MALDEF legislative attorney Luis Figueroa about where things stand today.

The ‘Majority Party’ party 

Texas Democrats got together Wednesday night to celebrate the start of session and to do some fundraising. Known this time around as “The Salute 2013,” the yearly event was once called the “Majority Party” party. Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa joined us from the event to talk about how Texas Democrats plan to return to majority status again.

Click the image below to watch tonight’s full episode online.