Things you always wanted to say but were afraid

Texas education officials decry ‘over-testing’ in public schools

This is a good article if your interested in testing in Texas. 


By  Will Weissert


Updated: 11:53 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012

Published: 6:39 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012

State Board of Education members pressed the Texas education commissioner on Thursday about whether an abundance of high-stakes standardized testing is warping classroom teaching to ensure students spend more time preparing for the exams then actual learning.

Robert Scott, head of the Texas Education Agency, responded that having kids cram is “a perversion of what’s intended” and that tests are supposed to ensure students don’t fall through the cracks while holding teachers and school districts accountable.

But Scott also acknowledged that some schools over-prepare for tests whose results have become the overwhelming standard by which education is measured statewide.

Republican board member George Clayton, a Dallas English teacher, complained that some schools have become little more than testing centers, offering mini-exams every two weeks to prepare for full, end-of-the-year standardized tests.

“Perversion? It’s being truthful about what’s happened in many schools, that testing has taken over,” Clayton said. “That’s all we do is test and prepare for tests. Make an assessment, look at the data, prepare another test; from August until the end of the school year.”

Scott said, “We do have many districts and many campuses that are overemphasizing testing” and noted a backlash against a perception that students are being over-tested. He pointed to unsuccessful legislation in the Texas House that would have imposed a two-year moratorium on standardized testing.

“Parents care about kids; teachers care about kids,” Scott said. “The system doesn’t give a damn about kids unless you make it care, and that’s really what the idea of testing and accountability was about.”

He said testing ensures “different subgroups of kids” are not overlooked while higher-performing students pull up the average for a school or district that is then deemed successful overall.

But Scott added that while simply spending a year teaching for standardized tests “won’t work” and doesn’t improve students’ scores, it’s hard for state officials to legislate against such behavior, which has only been encouraged by how much credence Texas now gives to test results.

“I think testing’s important, but you’ve reached a point now where you’ve created this one thing that the entire system is dependent on,” he said. “It is the heart of the vampire, so to speak. All you have to do is kill that, and you’ve killed a whole lot of things, and I don’t think that’s healthy.”

The discussion came as officials implement the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR test, which students begin taking in March and which replaces a much-maligned previous standardized test known as TAKS.

But the new test has drawn criticism from parents, school administrators and some business leaders because its results count toward 15 percent of ninth-graders’ grades in core subjects.


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