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Archive for April, 2015

Why Our Child Won’t Take the STAAR Test

Why We Are Refusing the STAAR Test

Note: This was written last year. Everything is still accurate to my knowledge except Pearson lost most of the STARR contract for this school year. However, nothing including the tab has changed much in the way the tests are written and administered.

When my oldest daughter started this year I could have never imagined that we would be going rogue and refusing the STAAR test as an act of civil disobedience. Our child will not be participating in testing this week, and we’d like everyone to know why.

First, we are not refusing because the test is “too hard” or our special snowflake might not do well. We believe in growing strong independent and productive citizens. We value hard work, and goal setting. Letting kids off the hook because they are uncomfortable with something is not part of our parenting agenda. However, teaching them to stand up in the face of injustice is. The definition of civil disobedience is in part refusing to comply with certain policies or laws as an act of peaceful political protest. It is usually done when a group (in this case parents and increasingly teachers) are faced with an injustice yet lack the finances or political authority to affect meaningful change in the system. The current system of high stakes testing is unjust. It is detrimental to children, their teachers and our schools. Today’s third grader is tomorrow’s political leadership and worker base. Thus, everyone has a stake in this…not just those of us with school age children.

The following is a list of reasons the STAAR testing system as it stands now is unjust, and detrimental to public education.

  • Follow the money trail: Standardized testing is BIG business. States pay a private corporation named Pearson to produce and analyze the results of the tests. Texas ALONE has given Pearson 90 MILLION $$$$ for the STAAR test. This does not include the new curriculum most schools had to purchase (also produced by Pearson) so that teaching materials would line up with the concepts on the STAAR. But we are totally not teaching to the test right? Insert eye roll here. Pearson is getting very wealthy, and is protecting their wealth by heavily lobbying and funding legislation that supports high stake standardized testing. Google it… How much money has Pearson paid to lobby for common core and high stake s testing?
  • Designed by politicians not educators: Decisions about education standards, what is age appropriate, and the way testing data is used are being made by politicians and the corporations who fund the public education lobbying machine (Walmart, Dell, Pearson….) Call me crazy, but I think teachers, school administrators and child development specialists should be making these decisions instead of politicians and big businesses whose only interests are  lining their pockets and securing their future minimum wage job force.
  • Has never been validated: Assessments have to be both reliable (meaning you’ll get the same results every time) and valid (meaning it measures what you think it measures). STAAR tests are presumed to measure knowledge of concepts and therefor teacher effectiveness. Does it??? Does a bad grade mean the teacher is not effective?? Does it mean the student didn’t learn the material??? No one knows as it has never been studied and validated as a true assessment of teaching effectiveness or learning. The little anecdotal evidence we have seems to show it is a better measurement of socio-economic status and parental involvement that teaching or learning skills. (Google: The zip code effect in standardized testing). Not to mention that it is likely a lot of the measurement outcome is based on a student’s test taking skills instead of actual knowledge.
  • Not an accurate measurement of gaps in learning or gaps in teaching: Students and teachers get the results far after the end of the school year. Additionally, parents and teachers aren’t informed which concepts the student struggled with. It only shows a final score. Even if the STAAR did accurately measure gaps in learning or teaching (which I don’t think it does) there is no way for the student to review the material they missed. Students who score poorly start the next school year just as behind as they would have without taking the test. Yes, some believe this is the purpose of benchmark testing during the year. However, like the test itself benchmarks really only show abilities to take a test rather than true knowledge. Also, holding a child back an entire school year because he may be unsure on a few concepts leads to behavior problems brought on by boredom.
  • Soooo much wasted time: Things like recess and library time have been all but eliminated in today’s public schools. Teachers say there just isn’t enough time to fit it all in. How much time is spent on learning test taking strategies, and practice tests preparing for the STAAR? How much creative learning time or class projects are pushed aside in favor of worksheets and testing drills? Not to mention that the whole school shuts down on testing days. No one has art or PE those days. The younger kids cannot even play on the playground during those days. No one is getting any instruction time. Teachers are just trying to manage their kids so they don’t distract or disturb another test taker. Does this seem excessive to anyone else?
  • The new STAAR test is based on curriculum that is developmentally inappropriate. In Texas we have a law against using Common Core standards. However, the TEA very quietly issued new standards last year. The difference is most easily seen in the Math curriculum. The Math standards have changed so much that they are 30% different for third grade, and up to 60% different in the sixth grade. This drastic change has set our kids up to fail. Not to mention the curriculum is crazy making. I am a grown adult with an advanced college degree. I feel that if I have to read a THIRD GRADE homework word problem 3-5 times just to figure out what the question is actually asking…there is a problem. This new curriculum requires higher order thinking skills that an average 8-10 year possess. I am not complaining that it is too hard. I am saying the brains of our children (especially third and fourth graders) are not developmentally ready to process the kids of information the new math is asking them to process. This has become such an issue that the TEA is throwing out all the Math STAAR test grades this year. WHAT???
  • It creates a hostile and unfair environment for teachers and students: I am all for some form of teacher accountability, but basing a large percent of teacher pay to their student’s STAAR test performance is not good for teachers. It doesn’t’ accurately measure deficits in teaching, and is more a reflection of the level of poverty in their class room. It basically holds them accountable not for their teaching skills, but for the home lives of their students. Plus, this has the potential to set teachers at odds with kids who don’t test well or otherwise have a learning disability. Let school administrators do their jobs, and create an accountability standard that works for their teachers and their kids. One size does not fit all.
  • It doesn’t’ make our students or schools better: Proponents of STAAR testing tell parents it is helping their child be “competitive in a global economy”, and it helps prepare kids for University Entrance Exams. It is all a lie. We
  • If this is sooooo good for our children and schools why do the people who create it, and lobby for it, send their kids to $$$$$ private schools who DON”T USE STANDARDIZED TESTING? They tell us it is good for our children, and will make them better students, yet don’t want to subject their own children to it…..just say’n.

At the end of the day the system is broken. The STAAR test is bad for young students, teachers, and administrators. Teachers and principals are powerless to stand against the machine because their jobs are on the line. Even so, many brave teachers and administrators are starting to speak out publicly against this system. It is up to parents to clog the machine by saying no to these tests. Get involved, know your rights, and pay attention to what is going on…..The future of our country depends on it. You can find links to all kinds of face book groups and articles on my face book page…..What The Heck Happened To Education.