Summer officially begins on Friday, and heat indices are already exceeding 105 degrees.
Yet, some Texas school officials are relieved with the passage of a couple of pieces of legislation that have been signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry – including the “Merry Christmas bill.”
House Bill 308, which some have described as a “distraction” and “political issue,” would allow all faiths to exchange holiday greetings and display religious scenes and symbols on school property.
School districts can set up decorations like Nativity scenes, Christmas trees and menorahs on school property, as long as they are not proselytizing, and staffs and students can offer each other seasonal greetings like “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukkah.”
The bill’s author said it was intended to help protect school districts from lawsuits and help restore some sanity to “political correctness run amuck.”
More importantly, Gov. Perry also signed HB 5, which will overhaul high school graduation requirements and reduce the stakes of standardized testing on high school students. The new law will lower the number of end-of-course exams they must pass to graduate from 15 to five.
Approved unanimously by both the Texas House and Senate, the law is designed to give more flexibility to students who want to focus on career and technical training, not just college-prep courses.
And that’s as it should be. It seems that many school administrators and teachers have been sweating the announcement of the latest round of State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (or STAAR) test results with mixed results.
Statewide, the students fared the best on science assessments and continued to struggle with writing, according to results released June 10 by the Texas Education Agency. Only 52.7 percent passed English II writing.
Commissioner of Education Michael L. Williams said, “Our students and teachers are still adjusting to the new expectations, but it is clear we must improve instruction to meet 21st century demands.”
However, 15 end-of-course exams to graduate? No wonder some have referred to this as the Death STAAR.
Local superintendents would have preferred another bill which would have lowered the testing requirements also for elementary and middle school students. Maybe next session.
Until then, they can say “Merry Christmas,” and give thanks that some have realized not every student needs to take calculus. Getting a college degree is not essential for all Texas students.