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TAGT 2013 Legislative Summary

TAGT Celebrates Successes in 2013 Legislative Session
House Bill 5 (HB 5), passed during the recent Texas legislative session, could open new doors for gifted and talented programs.


TAGT SUMMARY OF 2013 LEGISLATIVE ACTIVITY
The Texas Association for the Gifted & Talented (TAGT) connects and empowers educators and parents to meet the unique needs of gifted and talented learners through awareness, advocacy and action. With the guidance of the TAGT Advocacy Committee and approval of the Board, our organization established 2013 Policy Goals for the 83rd Legislative Session. These goals were designed to strengthen programs, services, and funding for gifted and talented education. As a service to members, TAGT is providing this summary of legislation passed during the 2013 Legislative session that supported the Association’s stated goals. Additionally, legislation that will have the greatest impact on gifted and talented programs and services in Texas public schools is outlined by category.

The 2013 Legislative session contained positive news for gifted education; with the passage of House Bill 5 (HB 5) and its subsequent signing into law, the promise of accountability for gifted education has been rekindled (see below for more details on what HB 5 means for gifted education). TAGT played a significant role in ensuring that gifted and talented language was included in HB 5 and is grateful to Representative Phillip Cortez of San Antonio, who was the primary force behind this inclusion. TAGT was ably represented at the Capitol by Policy Consultant Marty De Leon; his efforts were most helpful in securing passage of HB 5, and in keeping gifted education on the minds of legislators.

2013 TAGT POLICY GOALS & ACCOMPLISHMENTS
1. Restore State Funding to Public Education
In 2011, the 82nd Texas Legislature reduced public education spending by $5 billion; therefore, a goal of most education associations, including TAGT, was to see funding restored in the 83rd session. Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) did restore $3.4 billion to public education for 2014-2015. See below for more details regarding SB 1 and public education funding.

2. Protect the G/T Weight and Allotment
There were no proposals considered in the 2013 Legislative session to eliminate or reduce the G/T weight and allotment.

3. Seek Campus Distinction Designation (to lead to some form of accountability for G/T programs)
Prior to the beginning of the session, the campus distinction designation appeared to be the most likely avenue for G/T inroads toward validation and possible accountability. However, House Bill 5 (HB 5) provided an even greater opportunity for G/T attention. HB 5 is an extensive education bill that reduces the number of end-of-course tests that students must pass in order to graduate, and provides students more opportunities to pursue career and college pathways. Also included in the law is a provision that requires school districts to evaluate and assign a performance rating to eight programs annually, and educational programs for gifted and talented students is one of the areas specifically named in the law. HB 5 requires evaluation of the following programs: fine arts; wellness and physical education; community and parental involvement; 21st Century Workforce Development; second language acquisition; digital learning environment; dropout prevention strategies; and educational programs for gifted and talented students. The process used to evaluate and assign a rating is unknown at this time and will be determined by TEA. It is likely that local school districts will have latitude on how the process is implemented.

4. Encourage Texas Education Agency (TEA) to Collect/ Disaggregate Data about Gifted Education Services
TAGT believes TEA must gather data in a simple and straightforward manner about the gifted and talented services school districts offer. This is not to evaluate or rank school districts, but to provide data about the services offered as part of districts’ gifted programming. This will create greater transparency for taxpayers and for parents who need the information to make informed decisions about their children’s education.

HB 5 will require districts to use criteria developed by a local committee to evaluate the programs named above and assign a rating of exemplary, recognized, acceptable, or unacceptable. This information will be reported to TEA and made publicly available beginning with the 2013-2014 school year. While the details of this process are yet unknown, the good news is that someone will be looking at a school district’s G/T services and that TEA will be gathering information in some format.

LEGISLATION THAT MAY IMPACT G/T COMMUNITY

FUNDING
Senate Bill 1:

  • Restored $3.4 billion to public education for 2014-2015
  • Texas Performance Standards Project received $437,500 for 2014 and $437,500 for 2015
  • Mathcounts received $200,000 for 2014 and $200,000 for 2015
  • Academic Decathlon received $200,000 for 2014 and $200,000 for 2015
  • Advanced Placement Initiative received $8,150,000 for 2014 and $8,150,000 for 2015
  • Texas Virtual Network received $4,000,000 for 2014 and $4,000,000 for 2015

ACCOUNTABILITY
House Bill 5:

  • Allows local communities to engage in the accountability process by requiring districts to set goals and evaluate the performance of G/T programs (see above for more detailed explanation of HB 5 and gifted accountability)

CURRICULUM/COURSEWORK
House Bill 5:

  • Creates one diploma that affords all students a variety of post-secondary opportunities
  • Students may earn an additional endorsement in one of four areas to develop their talents and pursue their interests: STEM, Business and Industry, Public Services, and Arts and Humanities
  • Greatly expands course options and allows individual students more flexibility
  • Eliminates the requirement that all students must pass Algebra II and English/Language Arts III to receive a high school diploma
  • Allows all high school graduates to be eligible for automatic admission to public four-year Texas universities because all students graduate under the same diploma

ASSESSMENT
House Bill 5:

  • Reduces the number of end-of-course assessments from fifteen to five
  • Allows students to meet their graduation assessment requirement by passing English/Language Arts II (reading and writing), Algebra I, Biology, and US History
  • Eliminates the requirement that the end-of-course assessments determine fifteen percent of a student’s course grade
  • Establishes clear graduation requirements for students and parents by eliminating the cumulative score requirement
  • Encourages college readiness by allowing satisfactory performance on Advanced Placement exams, SAT exams, and the ACT to satisfy graduation requirements

House Bill 866:

  • Allows high performing students in grades 3-8 to not have to be tested every year in reading, math, science, and social studies. Note: This provision requires federal approval because NCLB requires testing every year

House Bill 2694:

  • 90% attendance rule does not apply to a student who earns credit by exam for acceleration
  • Requires ISDs to approve the exams available for credit by exam for acceleration in primary grades and each secondary academic subject
  • To the extent available, the board must approve at least four exams in each subject for credit by exam. Options must include AP/CLEP exams
  • An elementary student may be allowed to skip a grade if he/she earns a score of 80% (not 90%) or above on an approved exam for acceleration
  • 6th graders and above must be given credit if the student earns a score of 80% (not 90%) or above on an approved exam or, before the beginning of the year in which the student would normally enroll in a course, the student scores a 3 or higher on the applicable AP test or a scaled score of 60 or higher on the CLEP test
  • If a student is awarded credit by exam, the district must list the exam score on the student’s transcript, and the student will not be required to take the end-of-course exam for that subject
  • Districts must administer the test not less than four times a year at a schedule approved by the State Board of Education, unless the exam is administered by an entity other than a district
  • A student may not attempt the credit by the exam more than twice in the same subject