Establishing Middle Ground for Testing and Accountability in Texas

November 03, 2022  

Establishing Middle Ground for Testing and Accountability in Texas

The STAAR test is Texas’ statewide student testing program. Each year more than 5.4 million students sit at their desks and try to focus on this post-mortem, end-of-year high-stakes test as they go heads-down to answer hours and hours of questions. 

The STAAR test places significant emphasis and pressure on our K-12  students who are evaluated by one test administered on one day. Stop to ask yourself: Is this test measuring everything that takes place in our schools? Is the STAAR test truly showing parents and communities how our children are thriving in the classroom and in life? Is this test what our students and parents deserve or can we do better? 

Today, Texas is one of only 11 states that requires a high-stakes graduation test. Raise Your Hand Texas believes a student’s singular test score cannot determine their true academic success. Our accountability system should give us better insight into the important work of our teachers and students.  

A single multiple-choice test is insufficient to develop critical thinking and complex problem-solving skills for an information economy. 

In October 2021, we set out to have conversations across Texas with educators, parents, community leaders, and students and hear what they wanted most out of an assessment and accountability system. Raise Your Hand’s Measure What Matters campaign held conversations and conducted surveys with 15,600 Texans across the state. 

And the feedback was clear: it’s time to rein in STAAR and the stronghold it has on our teachers and schools.

Our field research was then shared with the Measure What Matters Council, an issue-based, non-partisan convening of education leaders, researchers, policymakers, and community leaders. In late October 2022, the Council put forth a set of policy recommendations in A Report from the Measure What Matters Assessment & Accountability Council

This extensive report contains actionable policy recommendations on learning, testing, and effectively measuring Texas’ public schools and students. The report also provides a call to action and a roadmap for state lawmakers to consider during the 88th Legislative Session.

To be very clear, Raise Your Hand Texas is not recommending the elimination of the STAAR test or the A-F accountability system. Instead, the Council’s recommendations outline a path forward focused on middle ground and common sense recommendations.

Bob Popinski speaks about measure what matters campaign

Assessment and Testing
  • Remove all high-stakes consequences for students. STAAR tests should be one of many assessment tools to inform classroom instruction and monitor student progress. 
  • Reduce the number of STAAR tests to align with federal testing requirements. Eliminate tests that are not required by federal law. 
  • Require the Texas Education Agency to report to the Legislature on the progress of the Texas Through-Year Assessment Pilot (TTAP) school districts. Assessments must help inform classroom instruction for all students. 
  • Expand the traditional definition of a good school beyond STAAR test scores in Texas’ current A-F accountability ratings system. Add indicators such as student safety, teacher quality, access to enrichment programs, and career and workforce indicators. 
  • Limit the high-stakes nature of STAAR tests used to calculate school accountability ratings. STAAR test results may only count for up to 50% of any domain or overall school in a reformed accountability system.
  • Use individual domain letter grades to inform parents, educators, and communities about what is working well and what needs to be improved in their schools. Increase transparency by removing the summative A-F rating and providing ratings across all indicators.
Local Accountability System
  • Explore new approaches to school accountability ratings. The Texas Education Agency should produce a report on alternative accountability rating systems, including local, community-based, and benefits-based systems showing improvement over time.

High-stakes graduation testing is a relic of No Child Left Behind. Many states have long since dropped non-required tests because the high-stakes nature of these tests doesn’t help students with their next steps in life. There are valid and reliable indicators used in other states that help deemphasize state tests, but also help provide a more meaningful and complete view of student achievement and success.  

Other skills matter in the 21st Century. Using more indicators broadens the accountability system so that schools and communities can better inform local decisions regarding resources and supports. 

We’ve also seen that business and industry leaders, employers, and our higher education institutions do not place much value on STAAR scores themselves. Higher education looks at multiple indicators, including SAT/ACT/AP/IB test scores, coursework, GPA, and well-rounded education metrics. 

Employers look for well-rounded, skilled employees who are experts in their craft or field and also possess the soft skills learned through dual language programs, UIL, FFA, band, fine arts, apprenticeships, Internships, and more. 

Raise Your Hand Texas is not interested in participation trophies. But we are interested in providing more transparent and actionable information about what is going on in our public schools so parents and experts can make the best decisions on behalf of 5.4 million public school students. It’s time for Texas students to be seen as more than just a test score on a single high-stakes test. 

We believe an over-emphasis on one high-stakes test negates everything else taking place in a classroom to develop a well-rounded, successful child. 

We look forward to working with legislators during the 88th session to make sure we measure what truly matters for Texas.

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Tags: Assessment & Accountability Measure What Matters

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