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]
ANGELA VALENZUELA Guest column
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 (www.tea.state.tx.us), 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.