Time, money should be for teaching, not testing

February 2, 2013

The testing cycle has begun! We are beginning to receive STAAR test reports from the State of Texas that reflect how our students scored on the new test.

Most people by now have heard the public outcry from parents, students and schools about our current testing program. An overwhelming majority of people believe that testing in Texas is out of control.

It is very interesting to note that the top 10 academically ranked states in America require students to pass 3 or less tests to graduate. Texas requires 15. Finland, which is widely considered the top academic country in the world, does not have a standardized testing program at all.

We hope the Legislature will take a reasonable approach as it addresses testing this session and will make serious changes to this statewide mandate. The current program saps our state of millions of dollars each year and our local schools of days and hours that should be used for teaching, not testing.

As for the scores our students are receiving, we don’t know how they compare to the state or to our peers in surrounding districts because we have not been given that data from the Texas Education Agency (TEA). We believe that our students will compare favorably when that data is released.

As witnesses from TEA have been questioned in a school funding lawsuit currently being argued in state court in Austin, they have confirmed that the STAAR is a much more difficult test than students in Texas have ever taken. They also acknowledged that even the lowest passing standard on the STAAR is equal to being on track to being “college ready.” This was new information from TEA that was not shared with districts around the state as this test was being developed.

The testing program in Texas has evolved from a test that was originally designed to show that students were on grade level in reading, writing and math in a few grade levels to the program today that is based on trying to predict the college readiness of elementary school students and having them take more and more tests every year. I find that change in focus very troubling.

In GISD, our focus is not to prepare students to take a multiple choice test. We believe we are beyond that in 2013. Our focus is to prepare our students for life, teaching critical thinking skills, collaboration, and college and career readiness – all things our community and businesses have told us are important to them. These skills are very difficult to measure using a once-a-year bubble test.

I pledge to you that our staff will continue to teach the curriculum and challenge our students every day. We will focus on what our community believes is important for our students to learn in GISD, and we will design programs based around those expectations. The state testing system is only one of many measures to rate our students and our school, and we believe it is a flawed system.

I will put our students and staff up against anyone as it relates to the total school experience, and we will continue to work every day to give our students the best education possible.

Dr. Jim Largent is the superintendent of Granbury ISD. If you have topics you would like for him to address in future columns, he can be reached at [email protected]

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