Sunday, April 03, 2005

Say 'No' to More [Testing]

This article appeared in today’s Waco Tribune Herald. It also appeared earlier in the Laredo Morning Times and the San Angelo Standard Times. Unfortunately, given the (really important) focus on school finance that is central to HB2, these other massive, new testing provisions are being ignored. So do circulate this piece widely.

Say 'No' to More [Testing]

Sunday, April 03, 2005

AUSTIN – It is incumbent upon the Texas Senate to kill the ominous new testing provisions that are contained within House Bill 2.

Specifically, they state that high school students may not receive course credit unless they perform satisfactorily on 13 end-of-course tests. These tests are to be administered beginning in the 2008-09 year.

The most positive aspect of the proposed end-of-course testing requirements is that students can be assessed on material in the semester that they take the course, rather than being held accountable for material that they took one or two years earlier. Beyond this, it is hard to ascertain other benefits.

In 2008-09, to receive a high school diploma, students must pass both the TAKS test and all their end-of-course exams. In the unfortunate situation of a student successfully completing or passing end-of-course exams but failing the TAKS test, students would be issued a “certificate of coursework completion” in place of a diploma.

What's wrong with this picture? For starters, the specter of significantly more testing will mean ever more test prep and less learning.

The things that make school worthwhile, enriching and intellectually stimulating like the arts, field trips and thematic units are already crowded out by testing.

This is of tremendous consequence to youths, many of whom already feel alienated and objectified by an educational system that reduces their worth to a number on a piece of paper.

Despite the rhetoric by education officials of “improved accountability,” the practice of attaching high-stakes consequences like graduation or non-graduation to exams is patently unethical, invalid and unprofessional.

Not only is there no national educational association of any repute that supports such uses of testing, the makers of the tests themselves, such as McGraw-Hill, openly disagree with such test abuse.

In contrast, myriad educational associations argue for basing high-stakes decisions on authentic assessments of student work such as student exhibitions, portfolios, demonstration products and performance tasks.

More state-mandated testing in Texas will not mean more learning or better education. Instead, it will mean that fewer children will receive high school diplomas and a substantially increased dropout rate – further aggravating this already serious problem that we have in our state.

In an apparent contradiction, HB2 further proposes that the eleventh-grade TAKS would be phased out by 2008.

In light of concurrent bill language that refers to diplomas versus certificates of completion, one can only conclude that the end-of-course exams will be used in combination with another state-mandated exam. The details are unclear and potentially misleading.

Yet again, this level of state intervention is based on the grossly implausible premise that a level playing field in the quality of personnel, instruction and resources exists across all courses offered in every school and in every classroom in our state.

According to the 2003-04 Academic Excellence Indicator System (, for example, property-rich districts like Alamo Heights in San Antonio boast many more certified teachers with advanced degrees (52 percent) and more teaching experience (15.2 years).

In property-poor districts like Edgewood, also in San Antonio, far fewer teachers have either advanced degrees (22 percent) or comparable years of teaching experience (11.6 years).

Finally, in the absence of either scholarly deliberation or public debate, this dramatic overhauling of the state's testing system is an affront to the democratic principles upon which public schooling is founded.

Angela Valenzuela is Education Committee chairwoman of the Texas League of United Latin American Citizens and associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas in Austin.


  1. If the students are not performing anywhere near the 12th grade level, then why does the author believe that a diploma is needed.

    Shouldn't a diploma represent that a student can function at the 12th grade level?

    Also, based on graduation tests and profiency testing in other states, the mandatory tests will be embarassingly easy. If the students are actually learning and functioning at grade level, the tests should be a breeze.

    I really doubt that students are giving up the time given to reading the Iliad to cram for arithmatic tests.

  2. Dear Superdestroyer,
    A high school education teaches students (hopefully) much more than just what a test can "test." Completing high school should represent much more than "functioning at a 12th grade level." For one, it displays a degree of responsibility and continuous work ethic; I know that high is not very difficult, but it does require a certain degree of participation and effort, and a stupid test at the end of an academic year should not be allowed to thwart 12 years of work.
    I once asked my boss, "Why do you only hire four year college graduates? There are practically no college class that teach you anything about the dry cleaning business or the art of selling."
    And what he said was, "I don't care what you studied, or how you did on your tests; I don't even care what grades you made, but what I do value is what completing the task demonstrates, perseverence, work ethic, and dedication, which are three characteristics that I require all of my employees to have."

    I realize that a high school diploma does not match the perseverence needed to complete a four year degree (as does my boss), but it does say alot about someone, and it should surely represent more than making satisfactory on an ill conceived test after years of hard work.

    So please remember superdestroyer that many things in life represent more than they first appear to, and a high school diploma is one!

  3. You Can't Fatten Cows by Weighing Them!

    While I do agree with some that say, these tests are acurate measures of what a student has learned in the classroom. What I can not accept is that these tests are the only measure used when assessing whether or not a student passes or graduates. There are many cases where a student has good grades and fails the test and is either held back or doesn't graduate. There should be multiple measures put in place that can accurately assess what a student knows and doesn't know.
    How long have we known about about left brain and right brain thinking? How long have we been looking at Dr. Howard Gardner's theories on Multiple Intelligences? Yet, we pin all of our hopes, and a shitload of cash, on a single measure of intelligence. And, this single measure has proved time and time agin to be inaccurately skewed aginst low SES and minority students.
    On the subject of test costs per pupil k-12 I am very interested in any data about what part of each dollar alloted for education goes towards testing. Information specific to Texas would be good, but national info. is good to. Thanks.
    A.L. McMurrey