Friday, February 17, 2012

STAAR Test: Let the Caving Begin

The new high stakes Texas state test to measure accountability in high school education, the STAAR test, takes effect this year with this year’s entering 9th graders. Starting this year, students  must not only have a cumulative score of some amount to be determined at a later date on all of the STAAR end of course tests taken, but in addition to that, the test is to count for 15% of their grade in the course.

15% is peanuts.

15% hardly affects a student’s grade at all.

Nevertheless, parents from Beaumont to El Paso raised a hue and cry so loud about what this “harder test” will do to their children’s GPA and class rank (which determines which Texas university they get accepted to), that today, TEA Education Commissioner Robert Scott announced: “Never mind.”

Scott was advised that he had the purview to overrule what the state legislature mandated in their legislation that established this new accountability system.
So what he said today is this:
“Based on my conversations with the Governor’s Office and clarification of legislative intent from the House and Senate, I am modifying the Texas Education Agency’s House Bill 3 Transition Plan. The modification gives public school districts and charter schools the ability to defer implementation of the statutory provision that requires performance on an end-of-course assessment to count as 15 percent of a student’s final course grade”
 In other words, “Never mind.”  The high stakes test became less high stakes. He let the districts decide whether they were going to let the grade count or not, but do you think any district will let the test count for 15% of the grade if other districts opt out? In this litigious society of ours, a school district that declines to opt out of the relaxation of the rules is a school district begging to be sued by a parent.

But wait, it gets better. The provision to have the state test count for a percentage of a student’s grade was actually a good idea. Know why? When a test will not affect a student’s grade in the present tense, there is little motivation on the part of students to do their best. The school accountability system is a joke because students have not been given sufficient motivation to do their best.

You see, today’s youth is very much focused on “the now.” They could care less about the future. If a test affects their present grade, they are concerned. If it doesn’t they could care less. That’s why this idea was such a good one. Besides, if a whole instructional day is to be spent on a state test, let it count for something.

But no. The caving has begun. And now looking to the future, I can only begin to predict what percentage correct responses will be assigned to a “mastery” rating. Certainly not 70%. More like 50% or 45%.

Texas education. Making mediocrity work each and every day.

1 comment:

Greg said...

You can't be serious when you say "15% is nothing". That is the equivalent of the semester exam in my district.

And given that it is supposed to be 15% of the course grade and it isn't given until second semester, my district is making it 30% of the second semester grade. No word yet on how the semester exam will be figured in, if at all.

Now I wonder what the district will do about the whole thing.

Personally, I consider the new testing system to be poorly thought out and even more poorly implemented.