Taking Notes from Teachers (and Students)

When experienced teachers, experts in education and public school finance, and even students say there's too much testing in public schools, it's time for lawmakers to take note.

On Sunday State Representative Scott Hochberg (D-Houston) wrote on op-ed that Katherine re-published on BOR.  Every lawmaker, teacher, and advocate should read his piece where he discusses his bill last session, HB 233, that would have increased accountability, and decreased testing, (yes it's possible):

"Texas has fundamentally followed the same testing process in k-8 for 20 years, despite changing the name of the test from TAAS to TAKS to STARR.  It's time we used what all that testing has taught us, relieve our classrooms of the constant preparation for tests, and focus our testing on those students who need extra help and evaluations."

It seems testing and funding are the bane of Texas Public education's existence.  One could say that for any school system but after a decade of litigation from various school districts in concordance with the legislature's consistent failure to act, with the exception of only creating more testing, the statement rings true. Something isn't working, but what?  Most of lawmaking and policy making is tweaking existing laws and programs to insure the government works properly.  This creates an almost unending, but slowly improving system of laws evolving with society.  This is in theory, but with public education this idea really misses the mark.  The policies almost seem to create a system that is intended not to work.  

Theories of learning are evolving and show that testing is at best a good indicator of learning and understanding for only a portion of the students.  Every student is different and a test does not implement knowledge and understanding, it implements a test.  Despite all of this the state and school districts are implementing a daily minutia of benchmarks that even teachers find challenging to keep track of.  This trivial testing only serves to do two things: disillusion and disengage students, and push out experienced and talented teachers who are overworked by these new tests.  This is not only the state's fault, the individual districts have to implement benchmark testing as well to ensure their school isn't low performing, and eventually left behind to close down under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.  

Hochberg's solution, HB 233 (left pending in committee last session) is a reasonable measure that maintains accountability (something that Texas Republicans and some business leaders harp on and claim to understand), and lessens this testing burden that teachers and students alike agree is not an effective benchmark.  It seems Hochberg's solution is closer to the theory of lawmaking that is improving and evolving, instead of maintaining a failing rigorous system that overworks and undervalues teachers by not reflecting our modern understanding of the learning process.  

I strongly encourage you to ask any teacher what they think.    

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