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August 21, 2017

I volunteer to take every STAAR exam this spring

Pencil eraser2
I’ll take the tests with my high school daughter just to see if the tests say I’m college or career ready. I strongly believe I’ll fail, which means either the test is invalid or my entire life and career have been a lie.

I volunteer to take every STAAR test required for Texas’s high school students.

Every single one of them.

Give me a box of number 2 pencils, a big eraser and a few cans of Red Bull, and then put me in a room with my daughter and her peers.

I’m willing to sacrifice 22 hours of my life to see if I’m really ready to enter college or the career world, or to see if my entire life has been built on a lie. Here’s the rundown:

  • English I: 5 hours
  • English II: 5 hours
  • Algebra: 4 hours
  • Biology: 4 hours
  • U.S. History: 4 hours

Oh, sure, I already graduated from high school and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in college, but Texas legislators swear standardized tests are the real measure of knowledge and ability, and it’s about time I took an honest and unbiased look at myself.

Many Texas educators and parents have pleaded with our leaders to have these tests independently evaluated for validity and reliability, but those pleas have been brushed off. Parents have tried getting our leaders to take a sample test, just so they’d see what the kids are experiencing. Silly constituents, they have more important things to do than deal with the consequences of their decisions.

So here I am.

I will be the adult guinea pig who takes the tests for those are too busy or too important to be subjected to their own educational policies.

Seriously. Test me with the kids. I’ll give you honest feedback.

I’m starting at a disadvantage

To be fair, I am at a bit of a disadvantage. It’s been 25 years since my last algebra class, but I’m hoping my ability to balance a checkbook, create and adhere to budgets, and make change at a cash register count for something.

Biology is also a bit foggy; however, I’m a shoo-in with real-world practicality thanks to dealing with family medical needs, administering first aid, fighting micro-organisms and preparing healthy meals.

English shouldn’t be a problem; I’ve spent 25 years working as a writer. Of course, it is entirely possible that I learned English the wrong way and my work has always been an incoherent mess. Dang, that’s sobering.

History? Bring it on. I can explain the cause and effect of every major U.S. action, but I flounder with dates, lists and politically correct talking points.

Do these tests evaluate what young adults REALLY need to know?

Take a second look at the test list and ask yourself what any of this has to do with real-world proficiency and practicality. I don’t see much.

I think it’s far more important that students leave high school knowing how to budget, understand finance basics, and perform basic computations rather than prove they can solve algebraic equations.

Instead of passing a biology test, let’s do spot checks on childcare and parenting, the importance of exercise and nutrition, or how to grow your own food. Those are  real-world applications they’re going to need.

English? I’d be happy if students leave high school with the ability to speak and write coherent thoughts that aren’t based on multiple-choice options.

History? It’s more important they learn how government works, understand diversity of opinion, and identify what they can do improve the system. Then get them involved.

Back to the test

Of course, what do I know? I’m just a mom with two kids who approach every STAAR season with anxiety and exhaustion. I’m just another tax-paying Texan who is tired of seeing millions of dollars poured into a bureaucratic sinkhole.

And this spring, I’m fighting to be another, albeit older, student taking five STAAR exams.

Will you join me since our leaders have better things to do?

 

Originally published December 2014


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