Friday, January 22, 2016

A Superintendent Writes... Reasonable Accountability - Part 2

In response to the January 14, 2016 post, “Reasonable Accountability – A Primer for the Texas Legislator,” an Old School LYS Superintendent writes:


Your plan is better than what we have now and obviously written with a heaping dose of common sense.  But... here is your big flaw.  You are still basing your plan on the current system.  When a house has a flawed foundation, you don't fix it by updating the curtains.  

If you strive simply to fix/change the over-testing problem ask the question, “What tests do the Feds require that all kids take?”

The answer is 3rd and 8th grade Reading and Math.  Why would we test more than that?  The answer is probably superstition. 

All other tests should be a local decision.  

The next question that needs to be addressed is why have a social studies test? 

Usually an answer addresses something about citizenship, knowing your heritage, etc. Well if that is the case, why not give all 8th graders a version of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services civics test? It’s rigorous and meets the above stated goal's and immigrants have to pass it to become citizens and vote. So why not do he same those of us fortunate enough to be born here?

Next, what should we do about high school testing?  If we are truly interested in college readiness, there is only one test that colleges use to measure readiness for college in Texas (and by the way, it's required now) and that is the TSI (Texas Success Initiative) test. Any other test is a waste of time and resources.  All schools should prepare their students for this and administer it during their Junior year.  

What I have just presented only addresses the number and type of tests.  It does not address the flawed testing instrument that we currently use, the flawed measures in reporting, the excessive curriculum standards, and a flawed public school funding structure and reporting requirements. This would just be the lipstick that we put on the pig every spring.

So in summary.

                Test only what is required by the Feds.
                Give the U.S. Immigration Services civics test to cover all social studies.
                Prepare and administer the TSI test to high school juniors.
                Anything beyond this should be decided on and paid for by local ISDs.

SC Response
Not surprisingly, I have no material disagreements with what you have shared.

The early accountability advocates (of which I worked for three of the pioneers: Rod Paige, Bob Brezina, Shirley Neeley) believed in the end of course exam.  So I see the current EOC system as a bastardization (or negative politicization) of the original idea. So yes, I’m a proponent of actually fixing the state’s accountability system, not abandoning it.

I also think the state should have higher expectations and standards than the Feds.  We should consider the Fed’s requirements to be the floor or the minimum standard.  And meeting the minimum standard just means that you are “Not Bad,” which in no way should be construed as meaning that you are good. All of that to say, that I’m OK with having more tests than what the Feds require.  And you and I both know if the entire accountability issue is placed in local hands, too many local communities are OK with undeserving the underserved.

I do like your idea of just having one social studies test in the 8th grade addressing U.S. citizenship that is at least comparable to the citizenship/naturalization test that immigrants must pass.  And the idea of the using the TSI, which tests reading, writing, and math skills is worth consideration, if the TSI is aligned to the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills). If the TSI is not aligned to the TEKS, then that puts schools in a no win situation. One, either teach the state mandated curriculum which only tangentially prepares students for the accountability test. Or two, ignore the state mandated curriculum to prepare students to pass the accountability test.

I can’t argue that the STAAR is flawed.  Hard? Yes. Aligned? Yes. Issues with how the test is administered? Yes. Flawed? Not so much. 

I completely agree that the TEKS are too broad, as does every curriculum expert that has examined them. And the legislature did pass a law last session to narrow their scope.  But remember, our Governor, The Honorable Greg Abbott, vetoed the law due to the misguided and ignorant fear of turning the TEKS into the Common Core. Nothing like pandering to the lowest common denominator.

As for your summary solution? I could easily live with it. But I would also want to strengthen it.

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn...

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