Today, June 28, 2012, our local paper ran a story covering the press conference for the “Texas Coalition for a Competitive Workforce” and a very familiar name popped up, Bill Hammond. Mr. Hammond is once again attempting to paint Public Education Professionals as the bad guys that do not want our school children to be successful. The way I read the article, Hammond makes three points that are worth rebuttal.
• Educators have “demonized the test”, “gone about scaring Mom that Johnny is not going to UT”
• “Superintendents are worried that the test will show their school is not well prepared for exams
• 15% rule is designed to ensure that students take the End of Course Exam (EOC) seriously.
To the first point let me assure whoever may be reading this that White Oak ISD and districts across the state are not opposed to the assessment of students. We are not opposed to being held accountable to the taxpayers of our districts for the responsibility of educating ALL of our children. STAAR/EOC accomplishes neither of the statements above. It is a $500 million dollar, 45 day calendar killer that takes a snapshot of how our students performed on bubble sheet multiple choice tests. It is a 20th Century education tool in a 21st Century world. We can and should do better for our students. Give back the 45 days a year for testing. Give back the days spent preparing for the test, (Yes, we do that. If we don’t, your child does not promote to the next grade and/or graduate). Let us teach the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) with greater rigor and relevance. Let us include the higher level thinking skills, collaborative learning techniques, and hands on projects that will actually prepare a student for college and career success. Mr. Hammond’s answer to student’s not doing well on a test prepared by an overseas company is to make the test harder and give it again. If he was a coach and his player could not lift 150 pounds, his plan would be to put 200 pounds on the bar and try again. When the lift is unsuccessful, Mr. Hammond would announce that the player is weaker than ever before. We are not demonizing the test or scaring mom about college. We are saying the assessment system DOES NOT WORK. The past twenty-five years are a perfect example that more testing does not bring about positive results. TEACHING should be the focus and testing should be one of many tools.
To the second point, REALLY!! Superintendents and their districts have been held accountable in the most unrealistic manner imaginable for the past 25 years. STAAR/EOC is nothing new in the world of high stakes test accountability. Ratings are based on a single day window and assigned based on the results of lowest performing sub-population of students numbering 30 or more. What is there to be afraid of? White Oak ISD teaches every student all year long. We have and will always do well in the world of “window testing”. It will be addressed but will not be the driving force of our district. When you are at the local level, you know the effort being put forth by your team. I am fully confident that when our scores come in on any assessment, we will have given our best effort and we will take the results and continue to teach our students to the best of our collective ability. Again, we are not in fear of the test, we are not in fear of the results. We are tired of wasting valuable time and energy on a system that does not work and is not relevant to the needs of the students we work with every day.
To the last point concerning the 15% rule, Local Control. To say that a student needs this extra incentive to put forth their best effort is truly insulting to students. If we continue to administer EOC’s, how much more incentive do you need than, don’t pass-don’t graduate? This is actually another effort to remove any level of local control from your school district. Never before in the history of public education has the legislature tried to control the actual grade book in the classroom. Set course passing standards, yes. Set graduation requirements, yes. Set attendance requirements, yes. Control the grade of a student in the local classroom, no. What possible benefit is this to the state or the process of preparing students for life after High School?
Bill Hammond is about big business and big money. For Mr. Hammond to call a press conference and call for no increase in funding a school system that increases by 85,000 students per year is irresponsible. To tie funding to the continuation and/or increase in an out-dated and ineffective assessment system is also irresponsible. I have been a Professional Educator in thee Texas Public School System for 31 years. I am unashamed to be extremely bias in my positive opinion concerning students, teachers and the level of success that is achieved in the Texas Public Schools. There is no better place to invest the revenue of the State of Texas than in the Texas Public School System. There are no finer people to trust with the future of our youth than the Professional Educators in our Public Schools. If the Legislature, Business Community and Taxpayers truly want to see the Texas Public School System excel, return to the model that was intended when the system was created. Let the community make the decisions concerning what is best for their students. Local Control, Local Accountability and Local Pride in the product that graduates each and every year is the best answer to the current issues that we face in education. Professional Educators in the State of Texas are trained and ready to meet the challenges of providing a 21st Century Education. The top down control proponents do not want to surrender the tight fisted control they have designed through this standardized assessment model. They need to be encouraged to do so in the polling places every time we have elections.