Study after study has reached the same conclusion: STAAR exams are testing students at a level of difficulty at least one year above grade level. Many reports are indicating that the tests are as high as three years above grade level.
If you are wondering which universities have published studies, here is a list:
There have been a handful of Texas Legislators asking for audits, ESSA waivers for federal requirements, and a halting of A-F accountability until this issue is addressed.
All of this occurring while students are preparing to test - you may have seen the "STAAR Lock-Ins," asking students to focus on probable test questions for hours at a time... or "Blitz" events which shut down all content areas except for Reading and Math and every teacher and coach becomes a Reading/Math STAAR teacher. I have seen teachers make music videos and students put on plays illustrating how to "Overpower the STAAR." It should be noted that much of these efforts bare little impact on test scores.
With Texas teetering between 40th-43rd in national rankings, it has become abundantly clear that STAAR hurts Texas while doing little to nothing to help our students, teachers, and schools.
How in the world can we get school funding right while we continue to use faulty tests?
Contact your legislators and ask them to support these Bills:
The New York Times asks University of Maryland professor to examine STAAR - unsurprisingly, tests are underestimating students
There are lots of questions surrounding the integrity of STAAR tests, and rightfully so. The New York Times decided to perform its own examination. Professor Peter Afflerbach of the University of Maryland analyzed the 2018 3rd-grade Reading STAAR. He found that the test held a risk of underestimating students’ capabilities.
The error is easily identified when any teacher, parent, and student reviews the STAAR report and finds the misalignment between STAAR scores and Lexile levels. What is Lexile? Lexile matches students to skill-based reading materials rather than by age or grade. As referenced in the NYT piece, students are reading well within the identified Lexile levels for their grade, but STAAR scores say not so much... So which is it?
The answer lies in the MO of education reformers. If education reformers can convince legislators to buy into their methodology, then, the public might just follow suit. Let's review the Ed Reform agenda:
1) Public schools are failing miserably;
2) Formally trained and credentialed teachers are the problem; and
3) It’s time for smarter people (i.e., non-educators) to take control.
Since 2012, Reading STAAR scores have been "flat." Typically, we see a steady increase in test scores. However, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) determines pass/fail - or cut - scores in an opposite approach to teaching and learning. In other words, as a classroom teacher, I will provide my students with a rubric - a chart which clearly demonstrates the work required to receive an A. In the contrast lies the methodology of TEA. Students, teachers, nor districts know what the passing scores are until all students have been tested and all tests have been scored.
The rules are being made up as we go.
We typically talk about the STAAR as a high-stakes test because of its consequence-based approach for students and teachers. But, let's review the high-stakes for all stakeholders:
Let's also view this from the perspective of homeowners. A failing school may lower property values. For schools to compensate, often property taxes are raised to generate the now missing school funding. However, if a charter were to expand its operation into a TEA labeled "failed" school community, not only would they be 100% funded by the state - the charter operators also receive an additional $1,800 - $2,200 per student. These funds are not available to public school students.
Blame the teachers and the students:
"A spokesman for the Educational Testing Service, the nonprofit that produces STAAR, referred questions to the Texas Education Agency. The agency said it stood by the test questions, which had been approved by a panel of teachers and field-tested on Texas students."
Data & Research:
"Two academic papers, published in 2012 and 2016, concluded that, on average, reading passages on Staar tests were written one to three grade levels above the tested grade level. The Texas Education Agency has said it was in the process of making changes to the exam.
The New York Times asked an independent expert on reading and testing, Peter Afflerbach of the University of Maryland, to examine last year’s third-grade STAAR reading test. He found that the test held a risk of underestimating students’ capabilities."
Have the Ed Reformers won? No! Not at all. Texans are self-determined folk. We believe in our teachers, we support our public schools, and we do whatever it takes for our students to succeed. The message to Ed Reformers is clear - we see what you're doing, and we aren't going to be silenced any longer.
Read the NYT piece: Texas Says Most of Its Students Aren’t Reading at Grade Level. But Are Its Tests Fair?
As a classroom teacher, I administered the STAAR test to my 8th-grade classes, hundreds of students. Often, I had to tell them they failed when I knew they read on grade level and higher. I taught summer school to several students each year so they could enter high school and many times tutored for free because principals suspected teachers were failing kids purposely for extra tutoring money to supplement our low salaries.
All content areas: Math, History, Reading, and Science, are all reading tests. My colleagues and I knew students were brighter than what the STAAR tests were reporting. If you have taught in Texas classrooms since 2011, you have probably experienced this as well.
We (teachers) were dismissed, as was the Texas Association of Meaningful Student Assessments (TAMSA) and multiple university studies.
I believe that more than 30% of Texas school kids are misidentified as reading/performing below grade level ~ more than 1.25 million children... more than 1 in 5 students are told they have failed. We lied to them.
Let's try to wrap our minds around the impact:
In addition to the Texas Monthly article, the Texas Tribune and The New York Times will soon be releasing their investigative pieces. Several elected officials across Texas will soon be issuing statements requesting that this Spring's administration of the STAAR/EOC exams be postponed and demanding third-party evaluations, the halting of school closures and charterization of public schools resulting from draconian laws such as 1842 and 1882, the denial of high school diplomas for the past eight years, and much more.
If anyone is still questioning why teachers are against incentive-based funding, this is just one of many reasons.
Texas taxpayers deserve the truth. Our students deserve far better than this!
This evening’s Socorro City Council Meeting heard several community members speak against Mayor Elia Garcia’s school choice proclamation. A few of the many reasons against ranged from unfair funding creating additional tax burdens on the citizens of Socorro to lack of due process rights for students and families and lack of services to students with special needs.
No one spoke in support of school choice, further solidifying the clear need and support of the Texas State Board of Education’s policy passed last week - public hearings and public comment allowing community members a voice in how their taxpayer dollars are used.
My public comment:
Mayor Garcia, City Council of Socorro,
28 Jan 2019 ~ The Texas State Board of Education passed a policy to hold public hearings and gather public comments on charter expansions.
Commissioner of Education, Michael Morath, is the sole authorizer of new charter campuses, while the TXSBOE has veto power. Note: The members of the TXSBOE are elected, the commissioner of education is appointed. Commissioner Morath has approved 400 new charter campuses in the last six years. The Texas Association of School Administrators sent this letter to Commissioner Morath stating concerns, such as the rapid growth of charters, lack of public input, and no local community accountability.
Before the TXSBOE policy, the only notice the public received was after the expansion campus had been approved. Charters and charter expansions were only required to share an impact analysis, which they create, with the Board of Trustees of the Independent School District in which the charter will exist.
The use of taxpayer dollars allocated for public education is subject to public input, i.e., Democracy. Unlike our ISD's, many charters and their out of town, appointed boards do not hold monthly public meetings. Our new policy takes a considerable step closer to creating a level playing field, giving the local community an opportunity to weigh in on whether a new charter campus is in their best interest.
The policy passed unanimously.
Land Commissioner, George Prescott Bush, made the unprecedented decision to withhold cash from the Permanent School Fund earlier this year. ISDs will receive *possibly* enough funding to cover the Language Arts & Reading Instructional Materials purchase in 2019 & 2020 - however - there will NOT be funding for student technology.
Sunset Hearing: Click to view
Note Senator Watson’s exchange (at minute 4:35) with Commissioner Bush - $55 million has been left on the table (for this biennium). According to statements made in the Sunset Hearing, the SLB has increased their gains by 100% in 2 years, $2B to $4B. However, these gains have not benefited the students of Texas. 39% of these gains are held in CASH at the Reserve for Capital Calls which Commissioner Bush states 100% of the cash in reserve dollars are needed.
Quorum Report: Please see the 2017 annual report pages for the PSF showing both the SBOE and SLB asset classes and earnings on all assets. The QR article reported SLB-PSF earnings that did not include the cash retained by the SLB (39% of SLB-PSF total value, $3.4 billion on pg 4).
I have sent letters to several House Representatives and Senators in the Texas Legislature, requesting their intervention to transfer the $655M from the SLB to the PSF so we may pass-it-through to our ISDs as they prepare to purchase Instructional Materials and Technology for Reading and Language Arts (English and Spanish) for the 2019-2020 academic year - the largest purchase in more than a decade.
It should be noted that the books in classrooms now are old, possibly/probably damaged due to normal wear and tear, and do not reflect the Language Arts TEKS adopted in 2017.
Update, 20 Nov 2018: In a meeting on Monday, 19 Nov, the Land Commissioner maintains the $600M in Reserves, which has been the issue all along, but will send $55M to the Permanent School Fund (the Texas State Board of Education). This will add approximately $1 (one dollar), to each student's fund which ISD's will pool to purchase the new Language Arts & Reading instructional materials and technology. The funds will NOT be enough to cover the 2019 purchase, as stated previously.
$600M remain in the Land Commissioner's cash reserves. I never received a response to my letters nor a response from his office as to why this unprecedented action was taken.
Take a look at the Commissioner's YouTube video,
where he discusses turning Texas oil into textbooks for all students
Georgina C. Pérez