The standardized testing regime in place in Texas is getting a second look after receiving criticism from a large portion of the education community, The Dallas Morning News reports. Over 880 school districts have petitioned lawmakers for relief from the requirements of a test system that many are claiming is too onerous and not effective in assessing student performance.
A number of options are on the table, from a complete rewrite of the testing program to a two-year moratorium to consider alternatives. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus have already indicated that changes are coming in at least some form, saying that a new system could be in place as early as next academic year.
“To parents and educators concerned about excessive testing, the Texas House has heard you,” Straus said as the 2013 session opened. “We will continue to hold our schools accountable. But we will also make sure that our accountability and testing system is more appropriate, more flexible and more reasonable.”
Dewhurst has said the number of tests high school students have to pass — currently 15 end-of-course exams — will be reduced.
He said that 15 exams was too many, though he did not commit to an alternative number. Individual subject exams are likely to draw the most scrutiny in the upcoming overhaul.
Educators, parents and other advocates are raising concerns with the newly implemented State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness system that went into effect last year. It was designed to make sure that Texas high schoolers were graduating ready for college, but critics say that it sets to bar too high.
Based on results of the exams given to 9th graders last year, there’s every reason to believe that students will struggle to meet the testing standards once they hit high school. There are also problems anticipated among students in earlier grades who will now have to pass standardized exams to be promoted in 5th grade and in the 8th.
Parent groups and school districts have cited the STAAR as indicative of the overemphasis on testing in Texas and are calling on the Legislature — which originally approved the STAAR — to pull back.
“These high-stakes tests create unnecessary barriers to graduation, take valuable classroom instruction time, and divert significant public funding to a for-profit testing company instead of the classroom,” said one parent group that is lobbying for change — Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment. The group wants lawmakers to reduce the number of tests required for graduation to “no more than two or three.”