Texas is the home of high-stakes testing, and it is also home to some independent school boards who are sick of high-stakes testing. After 20 years or more of using testing to reward, punish, and shame students, teachers, principals, and schools, those closest to the schools know that this strategy has failed. Parent pressure forced the state legislature to back down on plans to expand the number of high-stakes tests from 5 to 15. Almost every school board in the state adopted resolutions opposing the testing regime.
Now the Arlington, Texas, school board has passed a resolution calling on the legislature to let local school districts devise their own accountability plans and specifically, to de-emphasize the importance of high-stakes testing. The district has created its own accountability plan, and only two of its 28 measures are test-baed. This may upset the battalion of lobbyists for Pearson, but it reflects the will of the people.
Here is the letter that accompanied the resolution (which is linked inside the letter):
On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the Arlington ISD, I am writing today to share information about the resolution regarding high-stakes assessments that the Board approved on April 16. The resolution urged the 84th Texas Legislature to end high-stakes assessments and to empower local school board to create and implement local accountability systems using standard measures of student success.
Accountability and assessment is a key point within the district’s legislative agenda. While an effective, efficient and equitable academic accountability system is necessary to carry out the mission and objectives of the Texas public education system, Texas’ current accountability system is too complex for school districts to drive continuous improvement for districts and campuses. Assessments should provide standard measures while allowing local superintendents and school boards to control how to respond to those measures but should not cause undue stress to students and families or teacher dissatisfaction and burn-out.
With the adoption of the Achieve Today. Excel Tomorrow. strategic plan, the district developed a comprehensive local accountability system. In that system, only two of the 28 measures are related to high-stakes STAAR testing. Other items included in that system are participation and success in rigorous courses, percent of graduating seniors taking and performing well on a college-bound assessment, percent of students on track to graduate on time, college enrollment and success, extracurricular and co-curricular participation, facilities, customer service, and effectiveness of leadership development. Each year, the Board receives a report on the districts’ success relative to the local accountability system. Last year’s report is available online.
We will continue to work with legislators throughout the session to encourage local control in establishing a sensible local testing system and setting an accountability system that works for the local community and best serves our students.
Bowie J. Hogg