Superintendents criticize high-stakes state tests

Posted Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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JUSTIN -- One junior in high school scores a superior test grade in Algebra 1, and a high one in geometry, but then has a bad day and doesn't make minimum on his Algebra 11 test. He could end up graduating on the minimum plan instead of the recommended plan despite his other successes and fail to get into a four-year college.

Another student makes the minimum score to pass all his exams, yet he doesn't even graduate from high school because the cumulative score of those tests isn't high enough for a diploma.

These were two doomsday scenarios presented Wednesday by four area superintendents who have gone on record against high-stakes testing and are very critical of the state's latest assessment system, the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness end-of-course exams.

They say the tests could derail students' college plans and lead to an increase in dropouts when test retakes from prior years steamroll a struggling student. They could affect students' course grades, grade-point averages and class rankings.

Karen G. Rue of Northwest, Randy Reid of Keller, Robin Ryan of Grapevine-Colleyville and Darrell G. Brown of Birdville met with reporters at the Northwest Administration Building in Justin to talk specifics.

"We're producing really good one-day test-takers," Reid said. "When colleges look at prospective students, they look at rigor, SAT and ACT scores, academic and leadership qualities. No one looks at a STAAR score or a TAKS score."

Success or failure could also depend on whether a student is trying to graduate on the minimum, recommended or distinguished plan.

To graduate at all, a student must meet the cumulative score, and pass Algebra II and English III with a satisfactory score.

Things will change, Reid predicted.

"When you see kids who have been in band, athletics, academic events, and they won't be graduating," he continued. "We'll have kids that won't graduate that will be performing at a higher level than kids who graduated two years before them, and yet they won't be graduating."

The accountability system should be based on more than a test grade, Brown said.

"We're looking for multiple measures," he said. "We look at projects, homework, classwork. What we're interested in is an accountability rating that will more accurately reflect how the student is going to perform."

The superintendents said there is hope for some relief during this legislative session.

They pointed to House Bill 5, which would change accountability, assessment and diploma requirements. Other measures, such as Senate Bill 225, also have the school leaders' attention.

"A lot of collaboration has been done with superintendents for the first time in many, many years," Reid said. "Our concern is what's sitting on the books in February can be very different than what comes out the back door in May."

The superintendents have been hosting parent meetings in their districts to spread the news of what the new state standards really mean.

"Nobody's been hit with this reality yet," Rue said.

Many education agencies are becoming involved in the high-stakes fight. The Texas PTA is hosting a Capitol rally Feb. 21 to enable parents to talk to legislators about high-stakes testing, vouchers and other issues.

The Texas Association of School Boards has called for a reduced emphasis on state-standardized, high-stakes testing, and repealing the use of end-of-course exams as 15 percent of a student's final grade, one of HB5's provisions.

The Texas Association School Administrators got more than 800 school districts representing more than 4 million students to endorse resolutions against high-stakes testing.

Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657

Twitter: @startelegram

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