Month: June 2016

As mistakes go, STAAR is a doozy


State Education Commissioner Mike Morath did the right thing by ruling that fifth and eighth graders who failed STAAR exams this year wouldn’t be held back a grade. He was reacting to problems with how STAAR exams have been handled by the testing vendor. But the commissioner still doesn’t get that the basic problem with STAAR is, well, STAAR.

“Kids in the classroom should never suffer from mistakes made by adults,” Morath announced.

That’s right, but the mistakes he was addressing – lost tests and other administrative snafus — are only symptoms of a much larger mistake – the entire STAAR testing regime and the high stakes it unnecessarily imposes on students and teachers. The entire scheme was concocted by adults, and children in classrooms will continue to suffer.

It’s time for Morath to tell the Legislature to listen to parents and educators and deep-six the entire testing program or, at least, scale it back significantly. But, despite being angered and embarrassed by problems with the testing vendor, Morath still supports the tests and would raise the stress level associated with them.

Remember, he has adopted a new teacher evaluation system tied to test scores, and, in a recent media interview, he claimed STAAR tests weren’t “overly burdensome.”

A study committee created by the Legislature – the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability – has been studying STAAR and doesn’t appear ready to junk it yet either.

All of this makes it that much more important that educators, parents and others who have had it up to here with high-stakes testing accept the State Board of Education’s invitation to say what you think about it. Take the board’s survey at the link below.

Changing state laws – even unpopular ones – can be a long and frustrating process. But if you have a chance to tell elected state officials what you think, take it!

Time for educators to begin uniting against Trump


As I wrote in a recent blog post, elections have consequences for educators, their students and their families, even though educators don’t always vote in the best interests of their professions. If they did, Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick wouldn’t be governor and lieutenant governor of Texas. Well, the same observation – call it a warning, if you prefer — can be made about the current presidential race.

Although Hillary Clinton has finally clinched the Democratic nomination for president, the reality is still hard to accept for many dedicated Bernie Sanders supporters, including Marion Fox, a public school teacher from Maryland who told The Washington Post she was not giving up on Bernie and was inclined to write him in on her November ballot rather than vote for either Clinton or Republican Donald Trump.

“There is still a big margin that will write him in, and that is what we are hoping on. Bernie is the person that we want for president,” she said.

I don’t doubt that Marion Fox expresses the sentiments of perhaps millions of Bernie Sanders supporters, including many Texas educators who also may consider writing in Sanders as a protest vote against both Clinton and Trump in the general election. It would be a strong political statement – and a dangerous gesture.

The reality is this. The next president of the United States will be one of two people.

It will be Donald Trump, an ill-prepared, race-baiting bully who already has declared war on the majority of Texas public school students – Hispanics – and who hasn’t the faintest clue about the realities of public service, much less the responsibilities of holding the highest office in the free world, which he demonstrated again after the tragedy in Orlando over the weekend.

Or it will be Hillary Clinton, one of the most prepared presidential candidates in recent history and a woman who has dedicated much of her career to the needs of children – from her days advocating for low-income and disabled kids with the Children’s Defense Fund to the present, when she promises real educators will have a seat at the table when education policy is being drafted.

Aided and abetted by endorsements from Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick, Trump may very well cash in on Texas’ Republican electoral tradition, but there isn’t any point in making it easy for him. And every Texan who casts a write-in vote for Bernie Sanders or simply stays home in “protest” on Election Day will be siding with Trump – and all the political garbage and potentially devastating consequences that come with him.