A Texas state representative called for shelving the troubled State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) to “iron out” its “many kinks” and, instead, choose “from a variety of nationally normed standardized tests.” The only problem is those proposed tests are aligned to the Common Core State Standards, which Texas rejected.
Representative Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) offered alternatives to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) aligned STAAR in a press release Monday.
“Flawed testing practices threaten the State of Texas’ ability to fulfill our education system’s goals — and our children’s futures,” said Isaac. “The litany of errors being uncovered about STAAR is simply a disservice to our students, hard-working teachers, and families.”
He added: “To that end, I propose that schools be given the freedom to choose from a variety of nationally normed standardized tests, not have their hands tied while the State of Texas tries to iron out STAAR’s many kinks.”
In May, Breitbart Texas reported on the overall frustrations with the STAAR and standardized testing. Last week, Education Commissioner Mike Morath announced the Texas Education Agency (TEA) fined its new vendor Educational Testing Service (ETS) $20.7 million for systematic failures that plagued the administration of the 2015-2016 STAAR from online testing glitches and vanishing answers, to test booklets sent to the wrong schools; questions with no right answers; completed tests lost in the mail; and test results never received.
Isaac stated: “I’m pleased that the Texas Education Agency has taken significant steps to improve STAAR, but it’s clear there is still more work to be done.” He suggested that school districts “should not be hampered by an inefficient and ineffective system.” Isaac said: “Adding a dose of free-market philosophy to education by allowing a variety of standardized test options can only drive down costs and improve quality.”
While costs matter, so does content. According to Fair Test, the national center for fair and open testing, multiple choice questions on a so-called norm-referenced test (NRT) “mainly reflect the content of nationally-used textbooks, not the local curriculum. This means that students may be tested on things your local schools or state education department decided were not so important and therefore were not taught.”
NRT Common Core aligned tests include college admissions tests PSAT/SAT, GRE, Praxis, CLEP, and the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS), the latter of which Isaac told the Texas Tribune he will file legislation next year that would allow school districts to use something like the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills instead of STAAR.
This is not the first time alternative state standardized testing has come up. Breitbart Texas reported on Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessments (TAMSA), pushing for using NRTs in place of STAAR. In July, the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessment and Accountability, a 15-member team of appointees assembled for the sole purpose of recommending changes to student testing and public school accountability, coughed up its future goal to replace the STAAR with computer-adaptive testing.
Breitbart Texas reported:
“Computer-adaptive tests (CAT) or tailored testing differs from multiple choice standardized testing because it adjusts question difficulty based on a student’s ability to provide correct or incorrect answers. To do so, it tracks data to accommodate these adjustments. Among the criticisms of CAT are that it only tests to one’s ability and that the tests are psychometric-based, which means it may have the elements of a questionnaire to learn more about a student’s personality or beliefs and values.
Additionally, CAT is the style of testing used for Common Core tests administered by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). Texas rejected the Common Core State Standards.”
The commission called for using the SAT, ACT, AP, IB, Aspire, and other national college-readiness tests aligned to Common Core. So is the high school equivalency GED exam.
Isaac, vice president of the Texas Conservative Coalition (TCC), a non-profit that advocates for limited government, individual liberty, free enterprise, and traditional values, co-authored House Bill 743; legislation that cut STAAR testing time. Presently, a lawsuit moves forward that alleges TEA did not comply with new rules ensuring 85 percent of students in grades 3 to 5 can complete exams in two hours and 85 percent in grades 6 to 8 can do so in three hours.
The state lawmaker concluded saying he hoped his colleagues will join him during the 85th Legislative Session “in seeking transformational changes that will ensure that testing is a benefit, not a burden, to Texas’ students, teachers, and families.”
One wonders what, if any, challenge will present itself in this quest for “transformational changes” in a state that banned the Common Core.
Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.