HISD trustees vote to suspend the use of test scores in retention decisions

Jan 13, 2017 by

Standardized test scores will no longer be used to determine which students in grades 3, 4, 6 and 7 will be held back after the Houston ISD Board of Education voted 7-2 to permanently suspend the scores’ use in such decisions.

The state mandates retention and promotion decisions for students in fifth and eighth grades be based on their STAAR scores, but Houston was among the only Texas school districts to use the scores to determine who will be held back in other grades.

The board was originally going to vote to suspend the use of test scores in retention decisions just for this school year, but Trustee Rhonda Skillern-Jones proposed making the change permanent.

“The (Texas Education Agency) calendar is already published through 2019, so even if we do not change the promotion standards, we will have to do this again in 2018 and 2019, which to me doesn’t make much sense,” Skillern-Jones said.

But Trustee Anna Eastman worried about suspending the standard without putting a new promotion and retention standard in place.

“I have a real problem with us just eliminating things over the past year without something intentional in place to replace it,” Eastman said. “If we don’t have something hanging in balance to make sure we address it, I’m afraid we won’t.”

Mark Smith, Houston ISD’s chief student support officer, said schools will still be required to conduct interventions with students who fail the STAAR test but will have the summer to figure out a game plan.

The vote came after parents complained at HISD’s December board meeting that the proposed 2017-2018 school year would end weeks before the district is set to receive STAAR scores for grades other than 5 and 8. They argued that would make it difficult for principals to alert parents that their students will need to attend summer school or will be held back.

Ben Becker, a parent who expressed concerns over the promotion standards and calendars in December, said it was a watershed moment for a district that has long placed too much faith in standardized tests.

“Everyone knows to punish kids based on one test they took one day is bad for kids and bad for schools,” Becker said. “This is significant and a huge victory, but it’s just the beginning. What’s significant here is that the Board of Trustees is willing to listen to parents and give administration permission to be innovative.”

Zeph Capo, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, said Thursday’s action signals the district’s willingness to listen to the community and re-examine its stance on testing.

“I think this is a step in the right direction to move both our kids and schools from the inappropriate and unintended consequences of the accountability system,” Monroe said. “(The district) has heard from parents for a long time on this issue, and I applaud the fact the district is responding to this.”

The Board of Education also unanimously approved the proposed 2017-2018 calendar Thursday, which will see school start Aug. 28 and end June 1. It will give Houston ISD schools the entire week of Thanksgiving off for the first time in years.

HISD allowed parents and the public to voice their opinions on draft calendars for the first time. Of 75,000 votes received by the district online, nearly 90 percent favored the option that was ultimately adopted.

Source: HISD trustees vote to suspend the use of test scores in retention decisions – Houston Chronicle

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