Thursday, March 29, 2012

The TAKS is dead.

The TAKS is dead.

The specific goal of this website has been accomplished, as protests of teachers, parents, and students have stopped a test that research has revealed as a failure. I thank everyone who fought against this test over the past 6 years.

However, the general fight for multiple-criteria assessment (rather than single-criterion assessment) continues.

There are new tests now, called STAAR. Initial reports suggest that the STAAR is quite similar to the previous exam, but covers additional subject areas. However, for this year at least, the STAAR is not being used punitively -- it won't impact students' grades. The State is admitting that there are deficiencies in the test design. This is not a surprise. No standardized test could be designed to accurately measure all of the things the STAAR supposedly will. It is a foolish, impossible mission, doomed to failure. Texas does not need this test.

Some parents are already objecting to the test:
North Texas mom prevents children from taking STAAR test

And rather than waiting a couple years, as they did with the TAKS, teachers are objecting from the very beginning:
Texas Schools Begin New Exams As Districts Call For End To High-Stakes Testing'

And students themselves are organizing against the new test. There is a new facebook group, calling for a boycott:
Boycott the Texas STAAR Test | Facebook


Like the TAKS, the STAAR is designed and sold by Pearson, a multinational corporation. Texas has not disclosed the total amount paid to Pearson for the new test, but it will definitely be a lot more than the tens of millions paid for the TAKS: the STAAR covers more content areas, includes a longer test prep regimen, and has required more development dollars already. Because of how poorly Pearson did in developing the TAKS, Texas politicians have deemed it necessary to pay Pearson even more money for the STAAR. Who better to solve our assessment problem than the company that helped create the problem? Some claim the politicians do this because Pearson lobbyists convince them how bad our schools will be without standardized testing (http://optoutofstandardizedtests.wikispaces.com/Texas+TX https://www.texasobserver.org/cover-story/the-pearson-graduate http://austinnovation.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/pearson-taks/ ). There is something to that, and it is obvious that more and more taxpayer money is funnelled into corporations every year, meaning less money for actual teaching: every hour spent on standardized assessment is an hour not spent on actual instruction. Our kids learn less partially because they now spend less time learning.

but I do not blame the lobbyists as much as I blame the willful ignorance of the lawmakers themselves -- who choose to trust a sales pitch instead of actual research on legitimate assessment, by experts like Angela Valenzuela, Kris Sloan, and Gerald Bracey. Instead of paying Pearson, we need to invest those millions in reducing class size, developing culturally-responsive curriculum, implementing authentic assessment, grading multiple-criteria assessment, and evaluating teachers in ways that have a better history of success, such as with observation.

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