June 10, 2016, letter to administrators from the Texas Education Agency announced that TEA is accepting applications until July 11, 2016, from education service centers (ESCs) and their partnering school districts that wish to participate in the writing pilot program created by Rep. Gary Van Deaver’s HB 1164.

Passed by the 84th Texas Legislature in 2015, HB 1164 created a pilot program in which participating districts have flexibility from current law relating to writing assessment.

The bill was in line with the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium’s 2014 recommendation that the state “move away from the over-reliance on high-stakes standardized tests” and its statement that “the state’s current writing assessments examine students’ first-draft samples in an artificial, formulaic context graded by a contracted, minimally trained hourly worker. Deeper and more meaningful measures of a child’s writing skills are reflected by a portfolio that includes varied examples of writing, progressions from drafts to final products, responses to feedback from teachers and peers, and other measures of authentic learning. By going beyond the first draft, teachers can thoroughly measure a student’s mastery of meaningful learning standards.”

To apply for participation in the 2016-2018 writing pilot program, an ESC must propose one to three partnering local school districts it serves and at least one local university partner. ESC, district, and institution of higher education participation in the pilot study will extend over the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years.

Between June and July 2016, TEA anticipates selecting one or more ESCs for the writing pilot program. TEA and ETS will evaluate applications, ensuring that key Texas demographic and geographic characteristics are represented by the selected ESCs and the partner school districts.

See the full ESC application procedures for more information.

See the writing pilot study design.

To be considered, applications must be received by TEA’s Student Assessment Division no later than July 11, 2016. An application must also meet all requirements described in the application procedures.

The procedures state that it is expected that up to 12 districts will be selected and approximately 500 students per grade or subject will participate in the pilot program.

Questions or concerns should be directed to Brad Vasil at 512.463.9536.