Stakes can be high for students and teachers in Texas when it comes to standardized testing – specifically, STAAR testing. Students usually need to pass to advance to the next grade, and eventually, to graduate. Families, teachers and teacher groups have been vocal in the past about how stressful the tests can be. They’re concerned that spending the entire school year on preparing for the STAAR takes away from other learning opportunities.
Now, a Republican lawmaker has filed a bill in the House that would repeal STAAR testing.
The bill, by Odessa Rep. Brooks Landgraf, would prevent schools from using STAAR results as a criteria for promoting students to the next grade.
Christopher Brown, professor in the department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Texas at Austin, says many schools spend a lot of instructional time preparing students for the test, even to the point of disrupting normal activity for students who aren’t taking it.
“Kids who aren’t taking the test have to be quiet in the hallways. They don’t get to have recess during testing time,” Brown says. “So I think it’s become an environment where everyone feels like the test is dictating what happens at schools, rather than good teaching and learning taking place.”
Brown says educators and advocates want students to succeed, but that’s difficult in a climate of limited resources.
“We’re in a state where we keep cutting funding for education, and we keep expecting kids to perform at high levels when they don’t have the resources they need to succeed,” he says.
But Brown says there isn’t a correlation between funding and testing. He suggests society should think about how to hold schools accountable for student performance.
“Do we want to give them one test on one day to see if kids know what they need to know to be successful, or do we want to think about a more holistic version of accountability where we’re talking to families and schools and seeing whether or not they’re doing what we want them to accomplish,” Brown says.
Brown says the students he teaches at UT-Austin tell him that the STAAR test doesn’t prepare them for what they encounter in college. He says a test isn’t a good measure of students’ thinking ability, initiative or passion. He says providing more funding for schools would reduce class sizes, and give teachers more resources and tools.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.