The Lead
9:03 am
Wed February 20, 2013

The Lead: Lege Debates Education Policy, Dell’s Quarterly Earnings

Good morning. The National Weather Service says Austin’s in for a cloudy and wet day with a high approaching 60 – and a chance for severe storms later tonight.

Lead Story: Texas’ standardized testing system for public schools faced a fierce round of questioning yesterday before a panel of state lawmakers.

There's a growing push in the State Capitol to change the testing system after complaints from parents and teachers that the new STAAR test is too challenging and is draining resources from school districts. 

“When you say these are good tests all tied into the curriculum – I really don’t know that,” Senate Education Committee Chair Dan Patrick told representatives from Pearson, the company that writes the STAAR exams. “And no one else does. I know you believe that. But we don’t know that.”

Patrick promised the legislature will introduce changes to the state’s testing system. The first round of STAAR testing last year saw only 55 percent of students pass the English I writing test.

More Educational Changes on Tap?: Meanwhile, several teenagers testified yesterday on a bill that would reduce the number of standardized end-of-course exams from 15 to 5. State Rep. Jimmy Don Aycock’s House Bill 5 would also change graduation requirements to allow for vocational learning.

Haley Updegrove is a high school student in Portland, Texas who wants to be a broadcast journalist .“Why should I still have to take math and science in place of my video and speaking classes?” she asked the House Public Education Committee. “And if I don’t score as high on my math EOC test, should I really be forced to re-take the class, when in the long run, it won’t further my career.”

The Texas Association of Business hired a plane today to protest the move to lower standards on school testing. The single-engine plane flew over downtown Austin for more than an hour today, pulling a sign that read "Is 37 percent correct on algebra too hard?”

Dell’s Quarterly Earnings: Round Rock-based Dell says its profit dropped by 31 percent in the last quarter as the company continued to be hurt by a shrinking PC market.

The computer maker posted a $530 million profit for the quarter. That was still slightly more than Wall Street analysts expected.

Dell's founder and CEO Michael Dell and a group of investors are trying to buyout the company for $24 billion. The company employs about 14,000 people in Central Texas.