Effort To Dump State-Mandated Tests in Texas
“Effort To Dump State-Mandated Tests in Texas”
By Donna Garner
Should Texas drop its state-mandated tests in the public schools? Sara Holbrook is the author of the 1.4.17 article in the Huffington Post (link posted below). I feel compelled to address the many erroneous statements made by Holbrook in her article which is deliberately geared to create outrage among parents and the public to get rid of state-mandated testing.
First of all, it is important for readers to know that Pearson no longer produces the STAAR/End-of-Course tests used in Texas; Educational Testing Service does. ETS administered its first STAAR/EOC’s in 2015-2016. Sara Holbrook gives examples from the previous Pearson-produced STAAR Reading Test dating back to 2013 and 2014.
At one point in her “meanderings,” Holbrook references the comments from a frustrated eighth-grade teacher named Sean who rightfully complains about the formatting of a benchmark test (a.k.a., practice test). However, there is no credible evidence offered to prove that this benchmark test was provided by Pearson nor ETS. More than likely this benchmark test was taken from some random, private-test vendor of which there are many. These lucrative-seeking vendors often market inferior STAAR/EOC products. In an effort “to teach to the test” rather than to make sure students are taught the TEKS on a daily basis, Texas school districts use taxpayers’ dollars to buy private-vendor products (mostly digitized and Common Core- compliant that are not even aligned to the STAAR/EOC’s).
Next, it is also important for the public to know that the STAAR/EOC’s are not given solely to rate or rank school districts. Sara Holbrook references a study done by Dr. Chris Tienken in which he claims that “A Big Standardized Test” is not necessary to generate student achievement data because demographic data will suffice. That may possibly be true so far as rating an entire school’s academic achievement level is concerned, but the STAAR/EOC’s provide individual students’ scores.
NEED FOR HIGH-QUALITY TEST QUESTIONS
The STAAR/EOC’s, by Texas law, are to be closely aligned with the TEKS (specific curriculum standards adopted by the elected members of the Texas State Board of Education). The state-mandated tests are given to a student as a “measuring stick” to figure out the proficiency level of that student. Has she learned the TEKS for that grade level or course? This helps her teachers and parents alike to know whether the student is prepared to do the academic work in the next grade level. If not prepared, then the student requires remediation and/or tutoring so that she can be successful in the next grade level.
Along with Sara Holbrook, I also do not like the STAAR/EOC Reading questions to which she alludes (taken from the Pearson 2013 and 2014 tests); but my complaint is not based upon the specific questions themselves. My complaint is that Texas’ test contractor should use literary examples taken from the great time-honored classics – not from some drivel written by a neurotic-sounding, inconsequential author such as Sara Holbrook who has little-to-no name recognition. Why not choose literary pieces from great authors who have stood the test of time – those authors whose marvelous writings have connected past and present generations?
AGENDA BEHIND THE EFFORT – TO GET RID OF ANY ACCOUNTABILITY
I suspect that Sara Holbrook is part of a group who wants to do away with state-mandated tests completely; and they have chosen to turn to an author whose literary pieces were poorly chosen by Pearson to make their case. The idea is to build emotional outrage among the public against state-mandated testing (stressful as it is) so that the STAAR/EOC’s will be discontinued.
However, before Texas “throws out the baby with the bathwater,” we need to stop and ask ourselves a number of questions:
“If we do away with state-mandated tests that produce individual student’s scores, how will students/parents/teachers know whether the student is ready for the next grade level/course?
“If we get rid of the STAAR/EOC’s, what will be the incentive for teachers to bother to teach the curriculum standards (TEKS) adopted by the Texas State Board after numerous drafts, testifiers, and public hearings?”
“Without the STAAR/EOC’s, how will parents know whether their child’s teacher has prepared the student for the next grade level/course?”
“If the STAAR/EOC’s are discontinued, what will the parents do when they figure out in future years that their child is not prepared academically?”
“If Texas does away with its STAAR/EOC’s that are largely made up of questions which have right-or-wrong answers and provide objective data, what will Texas substitute for them…subjectively scored, emotion-filled, opinion-laden “soft” data coming from such sources as portfolios or group-think projects?”
IS THERE A BETTER WAY?
I was a classroom teacher in Texas schools for more than 33 years, and we also have grandchildren and many friends who are involved with the STAAR/EOC’s. If anyone can show me a better way than the STAAR/EOC’s to hold both students and teachers accountable to an objective standard (the TEKS and the state-mandated tests), I am open to suggestions; but what are they? So far as I know, nobody has come up with a better substitute.
In days gone by, most teachers had “cut their teeth” on strong, traditional, foundational, fact-based, academic lessons (a.k.a., Type #1) taught to them when they were in school. These were the type of standards that made America the leader of the free world and sent the first man to the moon.
Unfortunately, Common Core and its destructive Type #2 philosophy have now “infected” our teachers’ colleges and our public schools (even many of our private and homeschools). It hurts me to say this, but we can no longer leave it up to individual teachers to decide what should be taught because so many of them no longer have a strong Type #1 foundation themselves.
Texas needs the TEKS (which are Type #1) to set a standard of excellence, and we need the Type #1 STAAR/EOC’s to make sure those who graduate from our Texas schools go out into the world with the strong foundational background they must have to survive in an ever-changing society.
1.4.17 – “I Can’t Answer These Texas Standardized Test Questions About My Own Poems” – by Sara Holbrook – Huffington Post — http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/standardized-tests-are-so-bad-i-cant-answer-these_us_586d5517e4b0c3539e80c341
11.4.13 — Type #1 vs. Type #2 Chart — http://www.educationviews.org/comparison-types-education-type-1-traditional-vs-type-2-cscope-common-core/