Friday, March 20, 2009

State urged to ease school accountability rules

This article is correct in that high-stakes testing has been de-emphasized in elementary and middle school grades but it has been heightened at the high school level. Not only do the new end-of-course exams account for 15% of the course final grade which now means that standardized tests will impact student GPA.

In addition, the high stakes attached to the Algebra II and English III exams are also extreme. Under this new system students must pass each of these two tests at a certain score (to be numerically determined by the commissioner) to receive a "college-readiness" or "post-secondary readiness" label on their diploma. So two exams that were never created to determine college readiness will be used to track and label students.


By APRIL CASTRO | Houston Chronicle
March 17, 2009

AUSTIN — Lawmakers are being urged to be more lenient on public schools that get failing grades when a single student group, including ethnic minorities and children from poor families, underperforms on standardized tests.

The complaints about how public schools are graded were aired Tuesday as lawmakers considered sweeping school accountability legislation.

The proposal would de-emphasize the much-criticized Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, though standardized tests would still be an indicator of performance.

“We think one of the great problems with the current system is the single trip wire problem,” said former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, who helped devise the existing accountability measures during his tenure in the Legislature.

“We don’t advocate letting school districts get by with letting any one school group fail. But for an entire school district, an entire campus to get marked down simply by one group ... I don’t see that that meets the fairness doctrine.”

Under the current system, every school and district in the state is graded based on annual TAKS scores and dropout rates among each student group. State ratings are anxiously awaited by superintendents, teachers and parents because they are the chief measure of how well schools are educating their students.

But educators and parents have increasingly voiced dissatisfaction with the grading system that was first implemented in 1994.

Sen. Florence Shapiro, chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, said continuing to hold schools accountable for each group is one of her biggest concerns about the accountability overhaul.

“I hope and I pray that we do not fall back on that,” Shapiro said. “Disaggregating has been the highlight of what we do. I expect that this will be a robust element in our discussions.”

The pending proposal, which is still being crafted and will likely change, also aims to prepare students for success after high school, whether in college or the work force.

Annual school performance ratings would be based on three years of test scores rather than the most recent year.

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