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Home | Tag Archives: texas tests

Tag Archives: texas tests

Op-Ed: The high stakes of being a third grader

Dear School District A:

Your third-grade students performed well on the STAAR test. Here’s more money.

 

Dear School District B:

Your third-grade students struggled on STAAR. You get nothing.

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That’s outcomes-based funding in a nutshell, and it’s the latest trendy policy proposal being considered by lawmakers in Austin.

Let’s be very clear: Under these proposals, the state would partially fund our schools based on the performance of 8-year-olds on a single high-stakes test given on a single day.

And one of those tests — the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) — is facing increasing scrutiny at the Capitol and across the state. Texas MonthlyThe New York Times, and other media shined a light on multiple academic research studies revealing that the STAAR is actually measuring students against standards for readers one or two grade levels higher than the test-takers.

The name “outcomes funding,” and other equally rosy-sounding labels used by proponents — like performance-based funding, or incentives-based funding — are misleading. A more appropriate name, based on what is being measured, rewarded and punished, is “test-based funding.” Whatever you call it, this type of funding mechanism would weaken Texas public schools and students — especially those who need the most help.

The theory behind test-based funding is that school leaders, teachers and students will respond to a financial incentive to improve student performance. It implies schools already have the resources they need to meet the needs of all students. Yet the unfolding school finance debate in Austin surely suggests otherwise. The proof? House Bill 3, which infuses public schools with significant additional state revenue, primarily targeted toward our neediest students, passed the Texas House by a 148-1 margin.

It’s true that outcomes incentives may work in business. They may even work in higher education settings where states provide funding based on course completion. But outcomes-based funding policy in the K-12 arena, where students’ achievement levels on a single standardized test are used to fund schools, is almost nonexistent. And, where it’s been tried, it’s largely failed.

Arizona passed legislation in 2017 awarding additional funding to the top 10% of its schools based on performance on math and reading standardized tests. The results after two years indicate significant inequities between wealthy and poor campuses, even though economically disadvantaged students are eligible for more money.

The Fordham Institute found that Ohio’s outcomes-based funding system, with its questionable performance metrics for bonus pay, be overhauled or scrapped.

Simply put, research has not shown that allocation of scarce resources to chase a single measure generates better outcomes than a broad measure of accountability. The evidence just isn’t there. Texas voters overwhelmingly reject it, too.

In January, Raise Your Hand Texas polled likely 2020 Texas voters, asking, “Do you support or oppose increases in public school funding tied to student performance on state standardized tests, where higher test scores mean more money for a school campus?”

Seventy-eight percent of respondents opposed test-based funding. Whether in a poll or on election day, that level of response is known as a landslide.

Our schools should not be funded based on the performance of a third grader on one day in May, especially on a test with as many trouble signs as STAAR. The state’s school finance system is not and should not be punitive. It should not create a culture of winners and losers. All Texas students deserve a fair shot, through an adequate and equitable school finance system.

Rather than dwelling on unproven, unpopular funding approaches based on a possibly flawed high-stakes test, the state should fund programs that use tools to benchmark and track student needs and growth. This allows a more personalized, data-driven model of instruction, and that’s a meaningful way to achieve better outcomes for all Texas students.

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Director of government relations, Raise Your Hand Texas

 

 

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Disclosure: Raise Your Hand Texas has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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Texas Teachers Have Mixed Opinions on Bid to Reduce State Tests

The House Public Education Committee heard a bill that would pare back the number of required standardized tests, in line with the wave of legislation limiting high-stakes testing in public schools.

Jennifer Stratton said her third-grade son has been on the honor roll for the last three quarters but is anxious his progress could be erased if he does poorly on standardized tests.

She testified Tuesday before the House Public Education Committee to support House Bill 1333, which would scale back the number of required standardized tests and reduce its importance in rating schools and districts.

HB 1333 is one of several this session aimed at limiting the high stakes of standardized testing across the state.

The House is expected to soon hear a bill that would radically change the proposed A-F accountability system to be more palatable to educators, who do not want their ratings tied to the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exams. And the Senate could pass a bill as soon as this week allowing students who fail required exams to graduate by submitting alternative coursework to a committee of teachers and administrators.

HB 1333, proposed by Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, would slash the number of required state tests from 22 to 17, allow districts to choose their own test providers with state oversight, reduce the weight of the state STAAR exam when rating schools and districts, and allow districts to use national exams as alternative tests with federal approval. It would also disallow using student test scores to evaluate teachers.

“Students and educators are stressed — and rightfully so — preparing,” Isaac said Tuesday. “Taking the 22 exams required by state law steals valuable time from the children we are preparing to become the next leaders of our state and nation.”

Monty Exter, who represents the Association of Texas Professional Educators, said he supported most of the components of Isaac’s bill but not the provision that would let districts across the state use different tests.

Standardized tests are useful to compare data between different districts, especially when it comes to disadvantaged groups of students, he said.

Texas Aspires, a nonpartisan group that lobbies for increased testing and stricter accountability for schools, organized a few parents and teachers to testify against Isaac’s bill.

Stefanie Garcia, a teacher in Keller ISD, said her students failed the STAAR exam because they had not absorbed the content and were not on track to move up a grade level. “Before, no one noticed that they could not really read and write,” she said.

Weakening the system that holds educators and schools accountable for student learning would mean more students would slip through the cracks, she said. “Because that failure actually mattered, now they are ready to graduate,” she said.

Molly Weiner, director of policy for Texas Aspires, argued Isaac’s bill would cut out standardized tests in subjects that are important for measuring student growth. “For the system to work, we need objective comparative data and it must be weighted heavily in our accountability system,” she said.

A State Board of Education survey in 2016 showed parents, teachers, students and business leaders agree state test results should not be tied to high school graduation or promotion to the next grade level. Instead, they want test scores to be used to see where specific students need more support.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • The House Public Education Committee passed a bill to overhaul a proposal to give schools and districts grades between A and F, to try and get educators on board with the accountability system.
  • The Texas Senate Education Committee heard Tuesday from supporters, and a few critics, of a bill that would make permanent a 2015 law that allows students to graduate even if they haven’t passed their required exams by going before a graduation committee.

Disclosure: The Association of Texas Professional Educators has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Author:  ALIYYA SWABY – The Texas Tribune

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