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STAAR: All for the love of testing

Blogs and Columns
Posted by LewisvilleTexan on 2016/4/23 14:20:00 (2899 reads)

Open in new windowBy Kristi Hassett
Guest columnist
kristi@khadvising.com

For Texas students, standardized testing is nothing new. Educational Testing Systems (ETS) took over from Pearson this year as the new vendor for the state tests. Pearson had held the contract since the inception of state testing in the 1980s.

One often expects hiccups during transition between old and new, i.e. Verizon to Frontier. There have been a wide variety of new issues with the testing this year. Hopefully some are due to the change in vendor and will be easily resolved. However, some indicate a potential problem with the very fabric of the scoring rubric causing some to once again, question the validity of the tests and the accuracy of the results.

The problems that have emerged all around the state this year are: missing shipments, late shipments, incorrect shipments, incorrect student information precoded on answer documents, missing student data scores, data scores from students in other districts, 14,000 students unable to complete online testing. Also problematic was inaccurate scoring of the short answer questions on English I and II.

These issues have caused districts across the state to expend additional staff time and resources to wade through the problems and take the proper corrective action. A primary concern of the data file and scoring issues is how student and district accountability will be affected.

A different concern is that the state still plans to use these tests to judge Texas public education even with the validity of the tests and the data in question. These tests are tied into every component affecting the students, schools, and districts. They affect whether a student can be held back, and whether a senior receives the diploma they have worked four years for. They are a portion of teacher performance ratings, and they will be used to label schools A-F in 2017.

As witnessed by the seventh school finance trial, these tests also control school funding. The state's defense is wrapped around student performance data, a pseudonym for state mandated standardized testing. Governor Abbott claimed that Texas has made "strides in education" based on the testing data, and therefore, the current level of funding is adequate. He also stated his desire to cut property taxes— the backbone of school funding.

School districts hope to have the Texas Supreme Court's school finance opinion any day now. If the Supreme Court agrees that the current funding system is inadequate, a flurry of activity at the Capitol will begin anew to find a solution. However, without adequate analysis of the accuracy and validity of the state tests, these problems will persist indefinitely.

Kristi Hassett is a school board member for the Lewisville ISD, and a board member of Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment. You can read her blog at www.khadvising.com.

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