The backlash in Texas against excessive high-stakes standardized testing seems to be rattling business leaders, who have now blamed educators for panicking parents about the exams.
Laboring under the delusion that standardized tests are the key to “holding schools accountable” for student achievement, leaders of the Texas Coalition for a Competitive Workforce have warned that they will oppose future hikes in school spending if the testing regime in Texas is weakened, the Houston Chronicle reported in this story
(Of course, business leaders supported billions of dollars in cuts to public education in the past year that were pushed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, but never mind.)
Bill Hammond, president of the powerful Texas Association of Business, actually said this about teachers and administrators during a press conference Wednesday: “They’ve gone about scaring mom. They’ve told mom that Johnny is not going to UT [University of Texas] because of the end-of-course exam.”
(Of course, it was actually Robert Scott, then the Republican education commissioner of Texas, who said early this year that the mentality that standardized testing is the “end-all, be-all” is a “perversion” of what a quality education should be. And he called “the assessment and accountability regime” not only “a cottage industry but a military-industrial complex.” But never mind. Let’s blame the teachers.)
For months, Texas has been in the forefront of growing protests across the country against standardized testing, which has become the dominant metric in school reform, used to assess schools, students, teachers districts and states.
( That these exams are not designed for such use and only measure a limited amount of knowledge and skills doesn’t seem to matter to school reformers who have put the tests front and center in school accountability schemes. But never mind.)
Hundreds of school boards across the Lone Star State — where the test-centric No Child Left Behind bill was born when George W. Bush was governor — have passed a resolution calling on the state to reassess its standardized testing system, saying that it is “strangling” public schools.
How is it affecting schools and students? In the 180-day school year, for example, Texas high school students now spend up to 45 days taking various standardized exams one test after another.
The resolution was picked up by school boards in other states, and there is now a national resolution protesting high-stakes tests as well as a growing number of parents who are opting their children out of these exams.
This past spring, Texas students starting in grade three began taking new exams called the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, while high schoolers are now taking 12 end-of-course exams that will be linked to graduation and final grades instead of the old grade-specific exams.
But the businessmen, apparently expert not only in business but in school assessment and accountability, want their STAAR.
Bernie Frances, chairman of the Texas Business Leadership Council Education Task Force, fretted about the backlash, calling it “a serious and unprecedented, and totally unacceptable challenge that has been made to our progress in improving education.”
And, he called school administrators “local bureaucrats demanding that the system be dismantled.”
Hammond accused superintendents of opposing STAAR, which is supposedly more “rigorous” than the old exams, because they are worried that it will reflect badly on their schools. So, he said, “they have built a firestorm across the state.”
(Can you imagine how Hammond and Frances would react if a couple of school superintendents held a press conference to tell them how to reform their businesses? Never mind.)
And so here we have the state of public education today: Educators are vilified, while leaders in the world of business and finance think they can apply the practices they use in the for-profit world to public schools.
(They can’t, at least not successfully. But never mind.)
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