Dallas Grapples with Testing, Host of Leadership Issues


Parents in the Dallas Independent School District — and in several other districts across the state — are concerned about the number of tests their children are taking during the school year.

School board members have responded by discussing ways to reduce the amount of exam-taking for Dallas ISD students. Board members are hopeful that after studying board policies concerning testing and curriculum, they will be able to modify the existing plan of action in order to lessen the number of tests given within the school year.

Matthew Haag of The Dallas Morning News says that the new teacher evaluation required that testing be expanded by Superintendent Mike Miles because grading teachers is dependent on the results of the tests.  Parents in North Oak Cliff and at Dealey Montessori School have held meetings and have spoken out against district semester exams in art, math, and physical education for elementary students. This year, even kindergarten students are taking semester exams in art.

In addition to the district exams, the Assessment of Course Performance, students also take the state’s State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exams. Miles would like to wait until the end of the school year to make any changes in the testing schedule to give the teacher-evaluation test, known as the Teacher Excellence Initiative, or TEI, time to mature, since 35% of teacher evaluation is based on student scores. Board member Eric Cowan said teacher evaluations may grade teachers, but have no benefit to students.

Two other board members, Dan Micciche and Joyce Foreman, share concerns about excessive testing, writes Haag.

“Parents object to these new tests because they create new stress for very young children, take time away from learning and take the fun out of the special classes,” he said. “They don’t see a benefit from testing how well a kindergarten student draws.”

Cowan wants the Assessment of Course Performance (ACPs) in elementary school elective courses done away with immediately.

 “Parents are calling them unnecessary exams for classes that are supposed to be fun. It’s an easy win [to get rid of them] that we could implement right away,” he said.

Many Texas state education matters from 2014 will still need to be addressed in 2015, according to Jeffrey Weiss of The Dallas Morning News. First there is the appeals process continuation of a suit concerning public school funding; the 2014 elections have created a turnover in the legislative education leadership positions; and the third year of STARR results reveal no improvement in test scores.

The Legislature will also be asked for money by the Texas Education Agency in order to study a new accountability system and create new teacher training. District Judge John Dietz of Austin has once again declared the state’s school finance system unconstitutional in spite of three years of legal wrangling.

Continued unease exists between Miles and some members of the board, especially trustee Bernadette Nutall, who Miles had thrown out of a school staff meeting in October. And in February, The Dallas Morning News spotted test results at Umphrey Lee Elementary which were suspicious, and later were tied to teacher cheating. Several growth issues, which North Texas school officials will need to decide how to handle, currently remain on the “to do” list.

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