Policy Analysis Institute releases report on House Bill 5

Wynne Davis

The Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis released the first in a series of reports on primary and secondary education in September.

The first report focuses on informing policy makers and the public about House Bill 5 and Senate Bill 2 of the Texas Legislature’s 83rd session, and the effects these will have on African American and Latino high school students in Texas.

HB5 changed the state standardized testing and graduation requirements, while SB2 increased the number of charter schools to be established in the next six years, according to the report.

During the session, legislators rejected a version of HB5 from the senate committee that would have included performance on standardized tests as a requirement for the graduation plan.

“Because the senate committee version that included nationalized standard testing in the distinguished graduation plan that is required for the top 10 percent [plan] did not pass, the chance for Latino and African American students who fare worse on those exams to get into the top 10 [percent] was not closed as it would have been otherwise,” Victor Obaseki, policy coordinator for
the institute. 

The new graduation plan has not been finalized, but the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board will begin designing it next month. 

As of now, the new requirements will be implemented at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year.

The new default plan allows students to choose additional curriculum related to their interests.

“I really like the fact that the default graduation plan for students is the foundation [and] endorsement plan, instead of the minimum foundation plan,” said Robert Edwards, president of Students for Education Reform and accounting senior. “It is healthier to expect a certain level of performance from students and give them room to adjust their difficulty level.”

According to Obaseki, research shows school officials have low academic expectations for low income African American students.

“The concern is that counselors will allow African American students to continue very low participation in the distinguished plan so they wouldn’t be eligible for the top ten percent,” Obaseki said.

State Rep. Alma Allen, D-Houston, required through HB5 that a report be produced to show which students, according to race and other demographics, are graduating under the new plan, Obaseki said.

Because the bill is now in progress, King Davis, director of the institute and a professor in African and African Diaspora Studies, said nobody knows what outcomes will result from the changes, but outcome reports will occur. 

“Maybe next year we’ll be able to look at the research findings and see if this is the best policy or not,” Davis said.