Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Tyranny of Testing:  TEA Says the Tests Don't Matter Anyway!

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Well, the Texas Education Agency didn’t exactly say in so many words that the STAAR test doesn’t matter, how else to explain their statement that the 14,220 students whose answers “disappeared” because of computer glitches will not be required to re-take the test.  And Commissioner of Education Michael Morath told the members of the State Board of Education that local districts could “decide” whether the 8,778 special education students and remaining more than 5,000 students tested as English Language learners would need to be re-tested.  He said these students’ tests, which he blamed on the testing company, would not be factored into the school ratings.

Ok, let’s think about this a minute.  The state has claimed that the tests are essential for measuring student learning. If that’s true, does that mean the state thinks these special education and English language-learner students don’t “count,” or that, in fact, their teachers know how and what they are learning from all they have done in class all year.

The state has claimed that the mandated STAAR test is a valid measure of the quality of a teacher’s work and can be used to determine if a school is “failing” and needs to be closed – perhaps to have its children outsourced to a charter chain.  If 14,220 students’ scores don’t matter, if we can assess the value of a school’s academic program, the quality of its teaching, the adequacy of its resources without these scores, then why test all those other millions of kids?

If you read the words of the Commissioner and TEA’s official spokesperson, you’ll note that they seem much more concerned about whether the testing company is “responsible” for these glitches, whether it is fulfilling its contract, than whether the tests serve any educational purpose.   The state of Texas spends hundreds of millions of dollars on these tests—somehow not getting blamed for betting on the  wrong testing company looms larger for our Commissioner than what these tests (even when the answers don’t “disappear” into cyberspace).

The message for parents:  if you choose to opt your children out of the state tests, you will not be alone: The Commissioner has already “opted out” of the claims that the tests matter.    

See my next posts to find out who in Texas is opting out and why (and what their children do on test days), and to see the extraordinary national movement away from expensive, meaningless (and harmful) standardized tests and toward courageous advocacy for real teaching and learning.   Our bureaucrats may not yet understand the exciting possibilities that await our children when the testing dollars get put back into classrooms, but parents are getting and sharing that message and it’s a powerful one.

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