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The Brief: June 20, 2012

School's out, but frustration with the state's new STAAR testing system continues to mount.

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The Big Conversation:

School's out, but frustration with the state's new STAAR testing system continues to mount.

At a House Public Education Committee hearing on Tuesday, parents, students, educators and superintendents alike unloaded on state legislators about the new test, which has long attracted criticism for stricter standards that students and schools have been forced to meet as they grapple with major cuts to state funding. The test, results for which were released earlier this month, has also fed a broader backlash against standardized testing in Texas.

On Tuesday, lawmakers at times appeared just as exasperated.

“You’re preaching to the choir,” state Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, the committee's vice chairman, said of superintendents' concerns about a rule calling for high school students’ end-of-course exams to count for 15 percent of their final grades. The rule was set to go into effect next year, but outgoing committee chairman Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, who lost his primary election in May, said that may not happen after all.

Both lawmakers and school officials also expressed concern that the exams had been administered too early in the year, keeping teachers from covering all course material. But officials from the Texas Education Agency noted that if tests were given any later, schools wouldn't have time to plan for summer school.

With spring test results in hand, both educators and legislators also came with new questions about student performance. Why, for instance, did only 55 percent of ninth-graders pass the English writing test? As the Austin American-Statesman notes, they didn't get many answers.

"Is it a function of the instrument? That's one answer," said Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin. "Is it a function of student attainment? That's a different answer."

Culled:

  • Ron Paul may have effectively stopped campaigning for president, but his rabid supporters are still sending millions of dollars his way. As Politico reports, Paul raised $1.78 million in May and ended the month with $3.3 million cash on hand. Though the Paul campaign has made clear that it is not attempting to upstage likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney, Paul appears intent on making a mark at the Republican National Convention in August.
  • The state announced Tuesday that about 22,000 unemployed Texans will not receive an additional 13 weeks of federal jobless benefits as of July 8, the Statesman reports. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the state's improving unemployment numbers — now under 7 percent — have triggered the limits, the third such reduction in federal benefits for Texans this year.
  • The Obama administration announced Tuesday that about 357,000 young adults in Texas have gained health insurance since 2010 due to federal health care reform, according to The Dallas Morning News.  A provision of the two-year-old law allows adults up to age 26 to stay on their parents' health insurance plans.

"We view the suit as completely frivolous but one to which a serious response must be made."John R. Phillippe Jr., chief legal counsel for the Republican National Committee, in a memo addressing a lawsuit Ron Paul supporters have filed alleging that the committee has improperly aided Mitt Romney

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