Are we putting too much emphasis on standardized testing? Watch this “inspirational” video from a Texas school district and decide for yourself – if you can get through the typos.
1. Your child will spend 24 hours taking year-end standardized tests; that’s roughly the same amount of time she’ll spend in art class all year long.
A Texas elementary school student endures roughly 24 hours of solid testing for the STAAR exams. In contrast, she spends only 27 hours* in art class.
The testing hours are based on a minimum of three STAAR “practice” exams, and three STAAR “final” exams. Each test is four hours long. Classes such as art, music and computers meet only 45 minutes once a week for 36 weeks.
2. One test grade is more important than an entire year of class grades.
Your child could earn an A, B or C in a subject but still fail if he doesn’t do well on the STAAR exam. The stakes are especially high for fifth and eighth grade students; STAAR literature says they must pass both the reading and math exams or else they can be held back a year.
But don’t worry, your child will have the opportunity to receive hours of “special tutoring/social humiliation” and participate in two additional re-test sessions should he fail the first time. After three attempts (12 hours of testing), a school committee can review his overall performance and make the final decision about promotion; however, he will likely lose a middle school or high school elective so he can be placed in remedial math or reading labs.
3. A current passing grade on the STAAR is not 70 percent; it’s about 40 percent.
Passing these tests does not indicate a student earned 70 percent or better. The state decided to phase in the grading standards, gradually increasing the number of questions students must answer correctly until 2016, when the final standards will be implemented. That means students are currently being graded at a lower standard.
Based on 2013 raw score conversions, eighth grade students had to correctly answer 22 out of 56 questions (39 percent) to earn a satisfactory score on the standardized math test. It rises to 29/56 (52 percent) in the second phase, and 35/52 (67 percent) in its final phase. See the data: staar2013-g8-math
State officials touted 77 percent of eighth grade students passed the 2013 math STAAR. That means 77 percent met the 39 percent cut off.
4. A child’s brain is not wired to do the kind of thinking required by the TEKS and STAAR exams.
The STAAR exams should accurately assess students’ abilities with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) associated with each subject. Given the current low scores, it appears the exams are NOT matching what the children are learning in school.
Why is there such a disconnect? Some would argue the tests are poorly written or designed, while others would say teachers are not doing an adequate job teaching the required TEKS.
It’s not the teachers. Scores of child development experts have already argued the tests and TEKS are developmentally inappropriate. Children simply have not developed the abilities they need for this kind of material; it’s like demanding that an infant run down a flight of stairs before she is capable of standing upright.
Most children in grades K-5 still use “concrete thinking”– they can use a little logic, but their thinking is limited to what they can observe. Today’s education movement focuses on “abstract thinking” – having children use complex reasoning and the ability to think about objects, principles and ideas that are not physically present. This kind of thinking generally develops after the age of 11.
In essence, the current education system pushes our wobbly kids down a flight of stairs and then blames the children, parents and teachers for the inevitable cuts and bruises.
5. Texas is paying $468 million dollars to the same company that creates Common Core curriculum and testing.
Texas is paying Pearson, the world’s largest education company, $468 million dollars for a five-year testing contract. The for-profit company also receives billions of dollars from other states and the federal government for student testing and creation of Common Core instructional materials. Their name may be familiar because of recent headlines about testing errors in Texas, New York, Florida and several other states.
Pearson, which is based in the United Kingdom, was optimistic about its 2013 growth and used its year-end financial report to tell investors, “In 2013, we generated good growth in our digital and services businesses, where we continue to invest to build scale and volume, and solid growth in our school curriculum business, which benefited from Common Core curriculum purchasing.”
Unfortunately, they recently warned investors that 2014 profits would be down due to “the deteriorating U.S. education market.” Sixty percent of Pearson’s sales come from North America.
6. Standardized testing has destroyed the autonomy of local school districts.
There is a pecking order, and your neighborhood school is at the absolute bottom. They must abide by the decisions made by the school district, which in turn must adhere to the rules and guidelines set by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). However, TEA must follow and enforce the U.S. Department of Education’s guidelines for No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
In short, most of the testing frenzy and regulations come courtesy of the federal government.
7. Teachers fear for their jobs if they speak out.
Although they’re not allowed to publicly speak out against standardized testing or curriculum changes, many teachers hate standardized testing as much as the kids do and wish they didn’t have to do it. Unfortunately, Texas does not have strong teachers’ unions in place to support them, and a dissenting teacher can easily lose her job. Teachers can also lose their jobs if their students’ scores do not pass state muster, and the state has already shut down entire schools because of poor standardized test performance.
Not all teachers are suffering in silence. The Badass Teachers Association (BATS) is a very vocal national group of teachers who are fighting back. Check out their Facebook page to learn how these teachers are standing up for our children.
8. Parents who “opt out” of standardized testing receive misleading information and intimidation.
There is a growing movement of parents who are “opting out” of state testing and keeping their children home on STAAR dates. Many parents cite the Parental Rights and Responsibilities section of the Texas Education Code that entitles them to remove their children, with written authorization, from a school activity that conflicts with a parent’s religious or moral beliefs. They find it morally repugnant and psychologically harmful to force children to endure hours of high-stakes testing. (Check out Texas Parents Opt-Out of State Tests on Facebook or United Opt Out National’s website for more information.)
Many families have been successful with opting out, but some have not. Their stories share one common thread: school officials have been quite explicit (and sometimes intimidating) about potential consequences their children could face for opting out. Based on TEA codes and student handbooks, these consequences include failing their current grade, mandatory summer school or tutoring programs, placement in remedial classes and truancy charges. Many parents say nothing was done to their kids and the threats were just scare tactics. However, that was not the case for all.
9. The rest of the country blames us for this mess.
Texas unleashed the testing Kraken, and we’ve got 20+ years of blame to slap on every Republican, Democrat and lobbyist involved in this debacle. What started out as a seemingly good idea morphed into an out-of-control bureaucratic experiment on our nation’s children.
During his first run for the White House, George W. Bush touted Texas’s education reforms that helped boost students’ overall scores in reading and math. The reforms, which included high-stakes testing in public schools and “accountability measurements” for teachers and principals, became the blueprint for 2002’s No Child Left Behind Act, and all schools were expected to reach “100 percent” proficiency in reading and math by 2014. NCLB expanded the federal role in public education through annual testing, annual academic progress, report cards, teacher qualifications and funding changes.
The act’s lofty goals have yet to be reached, and figures from 2011 show nearly half of our nation’s schools have failed to reach NCLB’s benchmarks. Today, 45 states have received federal funding and waivers from NCLB in exchange for adopting Common Core, a federally-developed inventory of skills and knowledge public school students should acquire in each grade from kindergarten through high school. (See points 4 and 5 on developmental appropriateness and Pearson.)
Is Common Core any better than TEKS and STAAR? That’s like asking if non-stop diarrhea is better than non-stop vomiting. Both will leave their victims begging for relief and create a huge mess for someone else to clean up later.