Dear Texas Legislature:
We are currently in the midst of our yearly exercise in testing our students to see if they have learned what they are supposed to have learned. Now, you’ve probably heard the complaints that we don’t test the way we teach, and that the test isn’t reasonable because it doesn’t represent anything that happens in the world after education. So as I thought about those things while I was monitoring actively today, I came up with a way to help you deal with that problem. What if, the next time you passed legislation related to education, you deliberated and voted on it like we teach and test kids?
So, since this seems like an outlandish statement, let me see if I can explain my plan. First of all, the legislation will be voted on the first day of the last week of the legislative session. Prior to that time, the Legislature will be able to examine the issue by holding hearings, calling witnesses, and doing all those things you do before you vote on any issue. Information is important, as teachers we fully understand that. However, once the voting is about to begin, you will have no more hearings or discussion about the issue.
Now, the legislation will be crafted by an organization that will be known informally as the Legislative Writing Service. They will listen to all of the information presented at the different hearings and create a bill that has between 40 – 50 decision points. Each decision point will include possible legislative language written by four groups: TEA, Business and professional lobbyists, Teachers’ organizations, parent advocate groups. The specific “answers” for the decision point will not be labeled so that you can read it and make the best decision based on all the discussion up to that point.
On the voting day, you will be brought in to read through the legislation and make your decision points. You will be in groups of no larger than 30 legislators. You will turn in all your electronic devices to elected members of the executive and judiciary branches who will monitor the the voting on the legislation. While most students who take the STAAR have 4 hours to finish their test, some have extended time and can work on their test for 8 hours. Since you are legislators, I think you should be given 8 hours to make your decisions. Don’t worry about lunch. We will have people bring you a cheeseburger or something like that.
Once you have finished your voting, you will wait for results. Please don’t think about talking to the others. We expect quiet until everyone in your group is finished. Even then, you will stay in your room until all the other rooms are finished voting. This is imperative t omaintain confidentiality. The results of all the voting will be the finished bill. Results of the voting will be released to the public so that each of the organizations and every member of the public can give each legislator a grade based on their performance.