Administrators say information is needed before judgment.
By Wally Perez
The Texas Community College Teachers Association is closely monitoring the repeal of the Texas Success Initiative, or House Bill 417, which will be discussed during the 85th Texas legislative session in Austin.
According to Texas Education Code 51.3062, students must be in compliance with the TSI to enroll in Texas public institutions of higher education.
The law requires all entering college students to be assessed for college readiness in reading, writing and math unless the student qualifies for an exemption, such as qualifying SAT or ACT scores, or demonstrates college readiness through successful completion of college-level coursework.
English Professor Liz Ann Aguilar, president-elect of TCCTA, said the biggest concern with the bill is the removal of the placement exam, the Texas Success Initiative Assessment.
According to Section 28.014(a) of the Education Code, each school district must partner with at least one institution of higher education to create and provide courses in college preparatory math and English.
In the bill, the education code is amended to remove the section that includes the assessment.
“We have to have some sort of placement exam to measure the reading level and college readiness of incoming students,” Aguilar said. “We need to place them adequately.”
Aguilar said if the placement exam is removed across the state, what would each institution do in its place?
Aguilar said the test itself is a standard of measurement when it comes to the TSIA benefiting students.
“Each placement exam, you’re going to have people for it and against it,” Aguilar said.
According to talking points provided by TCCTA, since there are no data about whether the TSIA is an accurate and useful assessment for placement, it is premature to eliminate it from Texas higher education placement strategy.
“In order to understand it, you need to take the exam yourself, as an instructor to see what it’s actually evaluating,” Aguilar said. “The question is always going to be if it’s better than the previous exam.”
According to TCCTA, should the bill pass, higher education institutions would go back to the days where each institution had its own placement test and score.
The talking points read, “States which have eliminated or severely limited developmental education have miserably failed their constituents; Texas is following best practices by standardizing placement assessments.”
Unlike the SAT and ACT, the TSIA identifies a student’s knowledge and skills, which is an essential element of the course placement process, according to the points.
According to TCCTA, the best practice placement validity is a Faculty Assessment of Student Placement Survey, which hasn’t been done in Texas yet.
In 2015, The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board put together a higher education plan called 60x30TX, which focuses on having 60 percent of 25-34 year old students obtaining a certificate or degree by 2030.
According to TCCTA, this bill would gut the current placement system of all higher education institutions in Texas, drastically affecting the goals of 60x30TX.
Aguilar said the TCCTA held an executive committee retreat last May and made it officially a point to have legislators visit community colleges.
“We need to ensure when these house bills are tabled, these legislators have a connection to these institutions,” Aguilar said. “We know for a fact that many legislators have not stepped foot on a campus.”
Aguilar said it’s always great to see the good things that happen at the institutions, but they need to see areas of need as well.
“If we always advocate the positive and good things, then they’re going to say ‘continue with the budget you have and move forward,’” Aguilar said.