Sometime during the conversation I mentioned to Donalyn that new regulations from TEA will require programs to use benchmarks. There was some silence as that piece of news was digested (and my reaction when told was NOT silent, I assure you). Finally, she remarked about how we schedule things around the testing in our public schools. And it hit me: there is a testing season. We joke about seasons here in Texas. We do not have traditional seasons. Ours are more like HOT, not too hot, hey kind of balmy, time to break out the jackets, RAIN. And all of those could happen within a 24 hour span.
But there is definitely a season of testing in Texas. It is a lengthy season which begins in September and runs through late April. Right now there are calls for limiting the season and the number of tests. Normally, this would be greeted with happy cheers. But when the details are shared-- not so happy. Here is a link to a recent piece about the new ideas about testing here in Texas: http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/state-regional-govt-politics/amid-complaints-staar-testing-faces-revamp/nqKkm/.
Here are some of the "ideas" they are considering:
•Assessing students more frequently but on a smaller scale throughout the year.
•Shortening the state curriculum standards that the tests cover.
•Removing the requirement that students pass the test to graduate.
•Moving the test online.
•Replacing high school students’ end-of-course exams with the SAT or ACT.
So let's examine these individually. First, let's ratchet up the number of tests but make them "smaller" which I assume to mean shorter, but who knows. I am not sure what it means to shorten standards but the closest I can come is eliminate some of the pesky ones. Allowing students to graduate without the test is an interesting proposal. I am not sure how that would work differently than it does now when some students are passed without passing said test. And if we don't want tests to determine advancing a grade, why even bother with the test? Why not use some other assessments? Moving the test online? Seriously? Show me the research that says this is effective (because I have the research that says it is counterproductive). But I do love the final suggestion: make all kids take an SAT or ACT exam to pass end of courses. I suppose they will take this test so many times (there is more than one EOC test each and every year of high school) that our SAT and ACT scores will improve (maybe).
There is much more involved, to be sure. Testing is a lucrative business here. Just ask Pearson who lost their contract with the state (who will now use ETS). There are those outside of education who wonder how teachers and schools can be held accountable without a measurement. And so, the testing season in Texas will continue to be a long one.