Thursday, April 3, 2014

How We got the STAAR test and How it Could Have Been Worse!

If your like me, you've got a little one at home this week who has been sweating the STAAR test. For us its our grandaughter, and while she doesn't live with us all the time we can tell she knows what rides on this. I wish I could tell her to be glad its this version of the test!

Jefferey Weiss has written brilliant piece on Texas Public Schools' standardized testing mania and how it could have been worse - much worse,  had it not been for the efforts of middle class (albeit well connected middle class moms). Jeff does makes the point that these women registered the same complaints that black, Hispanic, working class and poor parents have had about testing (and over testing) for years, and been marginalized in the process, nonetheless it was these mom's who pointed out to their legislators how illogical it was to have a mandated test that accounted for 15% of a student's grade.

What does that mean? Whatever else it meant, for former Senator and Education chairperson, Florence Shapiro it meant " order for kids to take the exam and take it seriously, they had to have some skin in the game.” For Shapiro, that meant the scores had to have an impact on the final course grade."That was the sole reason. The consequence could range from where a child went to college, to if a child went, to if that child graduated.

Weiss' series,"How the Texas Testing Bubble Popped" probes not only the work of "Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment" (or TAMSA. But my FAVORITE name for them "Mothers Against Drunk Testing"). But their interaction with an illogical system of education children in ways that do not produce educated children. How else do you explain spending almost a billion to one company to provide tests, test training and evaluation and still produce children who are neither college or workplace ready? 

My favorite moment in the series is when Walter Stroup, an education professor at the University of Texas at Austin signed up for a Senate education committee hearing to essentially ask just that. "How do you know your tests actually measure what you say they should?"


It would prove the beginning of the end of standardized testing as we could have known it!

Every parent, grandparent and guardian should seriously read Jefferey's series. It is a story about the results of parental engagement at it's most earnest level and what can be done if we are willing to work on a non-partisan basis, for all of our children. You can't find a better primer...

You can find the series here, here and here...

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