First, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a national cheerleader for standardized testing, prepares to head into the Washington sunset. Then President Obama and a new national study note the obvious – testing has gotten out of control and needs to be curtailed.
Could the retirement of the STAAR testing regime – or at least an extreme makeover — be that far behind?
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. For one thing, the president’s new “testing action plan” offers guidance to school officials but does not carry the force of law. Permanent changes in testing requirements, at least at the federal level, will require congressional approval of changes in the No Child Left Behind Act, and our dysfunctional Congress is barely able to legislate a walk across the street.
But the president’s announcement comes at an opportune time for educators and parents in Texas who have had it up to their eyeballs with practice tests, benchmarks, stressed-out grade-schoolers and other manifestations of an out-of-control STAAR culture.
Earlier this year, Texas legislators – who also began detecting parental anger over testing – created a 15-member Texas Commission on the Next Generation of Assessments and Accountability. That’s a long title for a panel that will study possible changes in testing and accountability requirements and make recommendations for the Legislature to consider in 2017.
The commission will be appointed by the governor, the lieutenant governor and the speaker of the House, and, despite concerns about testing, it is likely to hear from interest groups more concerned with test scores than they are in providing educators and students with sufficient resources for classroom success.
But the panel will include at least two parents and two educators. TSTA is encouraging all its local affiliates to lobby their school boards to demand that the commission and the Legislature reduce testing and replace it with a realistic accountability system that is supported by an adequate and equitable school funding system.
It’s past time to start putting first things first.