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June 28, 2017

STAAR turns Spring into a parenting nightmare

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April and May are the worst months to be a Texas parent.

We’re expected to send our children off to two or more four-hour internments where they are forbidden to move, eat, drink or use the rest room. Each internment requires them to sit with a #2 pencil and test booklet for 320 minutes while their teachers are mandated to watch their every move.

If a child cries out in confusion, his teacher can offer no assistance. If he finishes the test early or just gives up, he must place his head on his desk until the official test time clock goes off. If he becomes so upset that he vomits on the booklet, his test is submitted in a biohazard plastic bag.

Moms and dads are not permitted at school during these internment days. Bulletin boards are covered up, lest they give away precious answer clues. The children are required to eat lunch in their classrooms, and no one is permitted outside for recess. The hallways are deathly quiet because even the non-testing children are also confined to their classrooms.

And we allow this to happen.

All in the name of STAAR testing.

Believing the lie that standardized tests measure educational performance

Sadly, too many of us have become convinced that standardized tests tell us how both our schools and children are doing.

We base on property values on how many neighborhood children can attain a 40 percent score on an invalid educational assessment and tell ourselves the best schools have the best test scores. However, we conveniently ignore the fact that anxiety is running rampant in our children. We shrug our shoulders when we learn about teens who will not graduate because they didn’t pass one asinine test, and we allow others in government and industry to say they are stupid and not measuring up to “rigorous standards.”

Give me a freaking break.

It’s time for parents to fight back

There are THOUSANDS of Texas parents like me who have had enough with state-sanctioned child abuse and educational neglect, and we are fighting back. Some of us are exercising civil disobedience by refusing to send our children to school on testing days. Some of us are reaching out to government officials in hopes of changing the system. All of us are telling our kids that test scores do not define them.

However, school districts ARE using the tests to define and penalize children. The Houston school district recently sent parents a letter saying students who skipped testing would be forced to attend summer school; however, they quickly back-pedaled when they realized state law does not give school districts the authority to mandate summer school for any student based on STAAR results or lack thereof.

Just a few days ago, the director of elementary curriculum with Denton ISD sent parents a letter notifying them that summer school was required for fifth grade children who did not pass the STAAR reading exam. The Texas Parents’ Educational Rights Network, a grassroots group of parents and attorneys, is investigating the Denton notice.

There are many who would argue that the districts’ made the right call in penalizing the kids and would argue our schools are being too soft on failure. However, it’s not the kids who are failing. It’s the system.

For years parents and educators have spoken out about the developmental inappropriateness of Texas’ curriculum and standardized testing. While TEA maintains the material and tests are designed to ensure college and career readiness, people like Dawson Orr, the superintendent of the high-performing Highland Park ISD, are calling BS on the claims.

According to the Dallas Morning News:

Orr tracked 80 of his students who got scores above “basic” but below “satisfactory” (on the state’s high school English exam.) Of that number, 26 scored a 3 or better on an AP English exam — good enough for college credit. Another 18 scored at least a 500 on the SAT or had a composite score of at least 23 on the ACT — considered high marks of college readiness by actual colleges.

“I look at that and say I don’t have confidence in that STAAR data as measuring college readiness,” Orr said. “It’s a flawed design.”

He’s right.

Thousands of Texas educators and parents know the STAAR is not an adequate measure of educational success, and the entire system is flawed. We can beg and protest until we’re blue in the face, but our voices are drowned out by high-priced lobbyists and government officials who have absolutely no experience in education or child development.

Maybe it’s time to send these people off to their own four-hour internment where they are forbidden to move, eat, drink or use the rest room. Let them to sit with a #2 pencil and test booklet for 320 minutes while we watch their every move. If one of them vomits on his test, we’ll wipe it off with his suit jacket and make him put his head down until the buzzer goes off.

It may not change anything, but it will sure make me and my kids feel better.

 Originally published April 2015


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