Day: <span>December 19, 2016</span>

STAAR testing is about to get worse for kids


Parents who have reached the breaking point over the state’s abusive, counterproductive STAAR testing regime had better brace themselves. The legislative majority has found a way to make the STAAR test even more stressful for their kids.

Beginning with the next school year (2017-18), the state’s school accountability system will be changed to assign campuses an A-through-F letter grade, with STAAR test scores being a major factor in determining what letter a school gets.

The legislative majority enacted this law during the 2015 legislative session. It was a transparent effort to heap more blame on students and educators for struggling schools that the same legislators have refused to adequately and fairly fund. These lawmakers would rather blame third-graders for failure than own up to their own responsbilities.

You may recall that while they were shortchanging the school kids, they were enacting a significant cut in business taxes, an important source of education revenue.

Teachers, superintendents, school board members and other educators are fighting back against the new grading system because we recognize it for what it is – an effort to stigmatize kids and their educators, not improve their schools.

Unless the law is repealed or changed, most of the schools getting Fs likely will be in low-income districts and neighborhoods where students fare worse on STAAR scores. Slapping Fs on their schools will do nothing to change that. If members of the legislative majority really want to help these children, they would draft an adequate and fair school funding system, giving all kids reasonable class sizes, upgraded equipment and instructional materials and other resources important to classroom success.

Instead, the state now funds only about 43 percent of the Foundation School Program, while local taxpayers make up the rest, with much of the property tax money raised locally being spent on other school districts and on non-educational programs that help the legislature balance the state budget.

Many low-income children who are struggling in school or dropping out also suffer from inadequate health care and nutrition, issues that make it difficult for them to learn and needs that historically have been under-funded in Texas.

A self-styled education “reform” group, some of whose leaders were early champions of the STAAR testing insanity, recently issued a statement accusing superintendents who have been pushing back against the A-F system of “choosing fear over progress.”

Educators are all for progress. They have devoted their careers to it. But these superintendents and their teachers fear – with justification – that the new grading system will do nothing to promote that progress for their students. If anything, it will be counterproductive, much as most education “reformers” are.