Business leaders alarmed by new effort to abandon Texas learning standards
Move would break federal law by ending annual testing
AUSTIN – After an anti-testing group’s stunning call Wednesday for the Legislature to break federal law and abandon Texas’ own learning standards in favor of Iowa’s and other national standards, Texas business leaders called for lawmakers to stand firm for rigorous learning to better prepare children across the state’s elementary and secondary schools for college and the workforce.
The Texas Association of Business warned that the headlong rush to water down Texas learning standards will be devastating for Texas children, families, jobs and the state’s economy.
“Texas currently has strong student assessments [STAAR/End-of-Course] tied to the standards that the Legislature has wisely set for what Texas children should learn and be able to do to succeed in college and the workforce,” said Texas Association of Business President and CEO Bill Hammond. “Business leaders across the state were stunned today to learn that now the anti-accountability advocates are urging the legislature to completely throw out the assessments that were designed for Texas schools in favor of a few tests, like the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, that have nothing to do with Texas learning standards.
“Abandoning our solemn commitment to parents that Texas children will be taught Texas learning standards every day in school would be a horrible mistake, and we urge the Legislature to reject this effort and to stand strong for the children of our state,” Hammond said. “We cannot afford to retreat from state efforts to better prepare all school children for college and the workforce.”
In an email on Wednesday, a well-funded anti-testing group, Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment [TAMSA], urged members to contact legislators and demand that the state abandon student tests that are tied to the Texas learning standards. Instead, the group called for Texas to use the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, the Stanford test, the Readistep test or the EXPLORE test, none of which has any connection with the learning standards established for Texas schools by legislators working with Texas educators.
The anti-accountability group, in Wednesday’s email, also demanded that Texas end the crucial testing of every student every year in grades three through eight, testing that gives educators and parents valuable information about student performance and helps teachers provide the critically important help to students who may have fallen behind. Such a move also would violate federal education law which requires that students be tested in reading and math every year in grades three through eight, and in science at least once in elementary school and once in middle school.
The anti-accountability group wants, instead, for only some students to be tested every year, leaving educators without crucial annual information on how all students are learning.
In its call to abandon Texas learning standards, the anti-accountability group wrote in its email: “We must now use our collective voice to inform Governor Perry and our education leaders in Texas that we have expectations about the new testing system, and will accept nothing less.”
“The anti-accountability forces [TAMSA] are making it clear they are demanding a full retreat from Texas standards for learning. As businesses that provide jobs to millions of Texans, we urge the Legislature not to retreat and not to accept this demand for ‘nothing less’ than a surrender of high expectations and high standards in Texas schools,” Hammond said. “These same groups are demanding more money for the classroom, yet this short-sighted plan would put at risk hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money.”
The anti-testing organization also demanded that the Legislature reduce the number of end-of-course exams to just three, far below the number the Texas education commissioner said should be the minimum, and to eliminate that requirement that a high school senior pass any end-of-course exam to graduate from high school.
“At a time when states around the country are increasing learning standards as we compete in a complex, global marketplace for jobs and opportunity, some in Texas [TAMSA] are advocating that we do away with learning standards in Texas schools. We’ve made too much progress in the last two decades to take Texas backwards now. We urge the Legislature not to abandon our children now, and to keep strong learning standards and assessments in place,” said Hammond.
Comments from Donna Garner:
We must help the public to understand that Texas’ new curriculum standards (TEKS) and STAAR/End-of-Course tests are exactly what the majority of parents want their children to know. The old TAKS tests and the old TEKS standards were weak, generic, and confusing. The new TEKS will lead our Texas public school children into authentic education reform IF the new STAAR/EOC tests built upon the new standards are left in place.
The good thing is that the new TEKS give clear goals at each grade level/each course; teachers no longer have to guess what they should teach and what their students should learn. The STAAR/EOC’s built upon those new TEKS test what students are supposed to learn at each grade level/each course. The New Plan is a fair system – no more guessing, no more wondering what will be on the tests – clear goals with everyone (students, parents, teachers) involved knowing what those goals are; and most of the test questions have right-or-wrong answers – not subjectively scored.
Another good thing is that the new tests require only 4 hours per test to administer while the old TAKS tests took the entire day with no time limits. Once these TAKS tests are given to this year’s juniors, schools will basically be through with the TAKS; and starting next year, everyone will be taking the four-hour STAAR/EOC’s. Once those four hours are over, classes will be able to resume their normal scheduling for the rest of the school day.
The reason Bill Hammond (TAB) is upset with those who want to “dumb down” the New Plan (e.g., TAMSA) is because Hammonds knows that our Texas children are presently graduating from high school without the needed skills to create a strong workforce. However, all that will be changing as soon as this year’s sophomores cross the stage at graduation IF THE TEXAS LEGISLATURE WILL LET THE NEW PLAN UNFOLD! The sophomores and those students under them are being taught the more rigorous, traditional, academic, fact-based curriculum required by the new TEKS.
If the legislature goes along with TAMSA, rolls back the new STAAR/EOC’s, and does not allow the students and teachers to be held accountable at each grade level/each course, then the “dumbing down” of our Texas students will continue. Students will be allowed to pass from one grade to the other without having the prerequisite skills in place only to find out when it is too late that they are sorely lacking in academic mastery. By that time, it will be too late for students to learn the foundational knowledge and skills that they should have been mastering all along the way.
We must not let this happen. Please contact your legislators and tell them to allow the New Plan (new TEKS and new STAAR/EOC tests) to continue its implementation on schedule so that when those sophomores (and the students below them) graduate, they will go into the colleges and/or into the workplace trained with the solid foundational skills that college professors and employers expect high-school graduates to have. – Donna Garner]
The text of the [TAMSA – the “dumbing down organization] email sent out on Wednesday calling for the retreat from Texas standards is below:
Dear TAMSA member:
Yesterday, we were glad to learn that Governor Perry recognizes our current testing system is not working (click here to read more). We hear that the legislators will be coming out with their final testing bills in the next week or so. We must now use our collective voice to inform Governor Perry and our education leaders in Texas that we have expectations about the new testing system, and will accept nothing less.
Please add your voice to the testimony of children, educators, teachers and parents at last week’s Senate and House public education hearings where change was clearly being demanded.
CALL TO ACTION – 4 quick phone calls
Please call or email the 4 critical legislators below and share your thoughts about the STAAR testing system, and request that these lawmakers:
- Decrease the number of End-of-Course (EOC) exams to no more than 3;
- Utilize the SAT & ACT to determine college readiness, since these are the only tests that colleges – including Texas universities – consider in admissions;
- Eliminate STAAR EOCs as a requirement for high school graduation;
- Change elementary/middle school state testing to grades 3, 5 & 8 only for reading and math; 4 & 7 only for writing; and,
- Use nationally recognized tests in lieu of STAAR for grades 3-8, such as Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) or STANFORD or ReadiStep (pre-SAT) or EXPLORE (pre-ACT).
Call or email:
- Governor Rick Perry: (512) 463-2000 (no direct email)
- Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst: (512) 463-0001 (no direct email)
- Chairman Sen. Dan Patrick: (512) 463-0107; Dan.Patrick@senate.state.tx.us
- Chairman Rep. Don Aycock: (512) 463-0684; Jimmie.Aycock@house.state.tx.us
Thank you for your support; please make your calls now!
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Founded in 1922, the Texas Association of Business is a broad-based, bipartisan organization representing more than 3,000 small and large Texas employers and 200 local chambers of commerce.