Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Future of Standardized Testing in Texas: The Partner has Changed, but will the Dance remain the Same?

Texans are jumping up-and-down this week because the Texas Education Agency changed its testing contract from Pearson to ETS (Read more here). This is an historic change because Pearson has been testing Texas kids for over 30 years.  This decision is nothing short of landmark because Pearson has had a huge impact on our education system for most of my life.

And I'm not the only one shocked by this decision. If you look at the paper, Twitter or Facebook, you will see lots of people very excited about the change and very hopeful about what the new testing company will bring to the table.  There is already talk of how much easier testing will be under the new testing company.

But before you get too excited, I just want to pose this question.

Are we going to dance the same old dance but just with a prettier dance partner?

What I mean is this. The test has been extremely challenging for students as the overall performance has not changed in the past 4 years. Let's be honest the passing standards have not risen for the past 4 years because the test was overwhelmingly difficult and quite confusing to the students. (If you don't believe me, then are you smarter than a Texas 5th grader in Reading, Math or Science?) So my question is this. How will a new testing company make the STAAR test a better one for our students and a better reflection of their learning?

If the test can't become more reflective of the real teaching and learning that's taking place in the school, then what difference does it make who the publisher of the test is? After all, it will still be a faulty test (not just my words, read this) that paints a poor picture of what's really happening in schools, and parents, teachers, and legislators will be right back where they left off, vilifying the testing contractor for making a bad test.  Furthermore, the unnecessary stress placed on students, parents, teachers and leaders will leave Texas no further ahead than where we are now.

Since we have a new dance partner in education, I hope we also have a new song that we can dance to. I think we're all ready for that kind of change.  I know the supporters of public education are.

How about you?

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