“Ratliff, the former state board of education member, estimates that 25 to 30 percent of Texas school kids are misidentified as reading below grade level—1.25 million or so children. “Think about its effect on the economic engine of Texas,” he said. “The concentric circles of damage ranges from mental and psychological damage to schoolchildren to falling real estate values to our ability to recruit businesses. I’ve tried to get my arms around the damage and I can’t.”Added Chambers: “Every reading and literacy expert who has studied our concerns can’t be wrong on this. This is not anti-testing, this is not anti-accountability. We just want the truth.”
The researchers’ examination of five different “readability tests”—commonly used academic measures that rate the appropriateness of written passages for various grade levels—showed, for instance, that in order to comprehend various passages, a third grader would have to read on a fifth-grade level. A fifth grader would have to read on a seventh-grade level, and so on. Generally, the testing showed a gap of about two years. Szabo and Sinclair’s paper made no waves. The STAAR test was new, and if there was a warning included in the research, no one in power thought to consider it. An organization called Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment lodged protests, but they were rebuffed.