Jeffrey Weiss and Daniel Lathrop report that test results on the state’s STAAR tests have been flat. In addition, they report in the Dallas Morning-News that the STAAR test results show widening gaps between the lowest performing students and their peers.
The great puzzle is why state officials expect scores to go up every year, especially after sustained and large budget cuts. The legislature cut over $5 billion from public schools in 2011. Why do they expect scores to rise with larger class size and other loss of programs and personnel?
“If STAAR results are any measure, Texas is failing its lowest-performing students. Despite government-mandated programs for many thousands of test-challenged kids, three years of scores show no benefit.
In every test at every grade, groups of students who scored lower when STAAR rolled out three years ago are still behind — and in most cases, the gaps are growing.
The problem, said Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams, is that teaching has not changed to meet the increased difficulty of the tests.
“This is about changing the quality, enhancing the quality of instruction,” he said last week. “I am not suggesting that teachers are not caring or working hard. I am suggesting that what we are requiring of teachers today is much more difficult than what we required in the past.”
Last week, Williams announced that he would be granting new flexibility for school districts to use $1.3 billion a year in federal money for low-income students. He said that the changes were to help close student achievement gaps. And that the state would offer examples of successful programs.
The examples have not yet been identified.
Others say the gap problem is primarily a lack of resources — low school funding. Or unrealistic expectations — the new standards are too high. Or a problem with the tests — they’re not a good measure of what students learn.”
State Commissioner Williams is not an educator. In his last position, he “regulated” the energy industry, which in Texas is very lightly regulated. Why he thinks he has the knowledge to tell teachers how to teach is one of the signs of our dysfunctional age.
Why Texas–and the nation–expects test scores to go up every year is a mystery.
Why Texas–and the nation–expect low performing kids to have higher test scores as their schools’ budget is cut is another mystery.
Why politicians think the way to raise test scores is to make the tests harder is baffling.