Friday, December 21, 2012

Testing Concerns Update for Parents

A local group of parents and education testing reform-minded advocates found out what can occur when like-minded people get together to address concerns.

On Monday, Dec. 10, more than 100 Spring Branch ISD parents and concerned residents met and heard a presentation in the Board of Trustees Meeting Room by leaders with TAMSA, or Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment.

TAMSA supports a growing statewide, grassroots effort to make student accountability and testing in public schools more streamlined and aligned with post-secondary requirements of colleges and universities.

In Spring Branch, group members Karen Peck and Susan Kellner spoke at the meeting. Kellner is the former SBISD Board of Trustees President and served on the Board nine years.

After years of state testing under TAKS, or the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, the state is in its second year of a far more ambitious and rigorous student program of testing. The new testing system is called STAAR, for State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness.

Among other assessments, the STAAR testing includes 12 course-specific high school End-of-Course (EOC) exams which students must pass

Under the extensive new testing plan, students in grades 3-8 will be tested in mathematics and reading. Students will also be tested in writing at grades 4 and 7, science at grades 5 and 8, and social studies at grade 8

EOC, or End-of-Course, assessments are planned for Algebra I, geometry, Algebra II, biology, chemistry, physics, English 1, English II, English III, world geography, world history and U.S. history. Already, state officials are reconsidering some STAAR requirements.

On Nov. 29, Texas Gov. Rick Perry directed that new Texas Education Commissioner Michael
Williams waive, at least for the current year, a requirement that the EOC exams account for 15 percent of a student’s final grade.
State Sen. Dan Patrick, who will chair the Senate Education Committee, has filed a separate bill that would make the 15 percent rule a local school district option. The new Legislature meets in Austin beginning early next month.
TAMSA members Peck and Kellner noted that Texas taxpayers have already spent $1.2 billion during the past 15 years on student testing. This includes purchase of tests from a single testing firm, Pearson.
The parent advocacy group contends that students need more national norm-referenced tests like Iowa or Stanford basic skills tests, or the ACT and SAT. The group would also like to see EOC testing for secondary students reduced to two or three exams.
Interestingly, the Texas Association of Business announced days after the TAMSA meeting here that it was reversing its earlier group decision to oppose any change in new accountability testing under the new STAAR EOC program.
The 83rd session of the Texas Legislature begins Jan. 8, 2013.
Texas has a legislature that meets every two years for just 140 days in regular session. Bills that impact the state’s 26 million residents and 4.8 million public school students are debated in this brief window of time. Special sessions can be called to deal with some issues.
“We have momentum like we’ve never had before,” Susan Kellner told the local audience. Her remarks drew a positive response from audience members, many of whom voiced their own concerns about the new STAAR requirements and testing protocols.
For more information on TMSA and related issues, please visit:
Texas Legislature at
Texas Education Agency at
Texas Association of Business at


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