Texas’ New School Accountability System Could Reverse Falling Student Achievement

Dear Friends,

A very informative article written by the Dallas Morning News Editorial Board, shared by Donna Garner a retired teacher and education activist (Wgarner1@hot.rr.com)

 

“Texas’ New School Accountability System Could Reverse Falling Student Achievement”

 No one likes to be held accountable for achievement, especially when the goal is extremely hard to attain. But raising the performance of our public schools so that every child has a legitimate shot at a decent education is both a moral imperative and an economic necessity in our increasingly competitive world.

For those reasons, we are encouraged by recent changes to the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness or STAAR standards. Our sense is that STAAR is taking three broad steps forward.

First, STAAR is a standardized testing program and therefore comes with all of the normally attendant drawbacks to such exams. But testing is a necessity for anyone interested in improvement. And in this case, we like that STAAR exams have been made vastly more accessible to parents.

Simply put, parents will be able to log-on through a Texas Education Administration web site to see how their child performed and even the test questions they faced. Parents can also see how their child’s district, as well as school, performed. And rather than using confusing labels, scores for districts and schools will be assigned a letter grade from A through F.

If that seems less than revolutionary, consider this fact: There may be no better source to press a local school to improve than local parents. By arming parents with real information about their kids and their schools, Texas has just created a mechanism for continuous improvement (assuming that officials don’t water down the tests to rob the entire process of its meaning).

The second reason STAAR took a step forward this year is this: The system is now designed to encourage improvement regardless of how a student scores. So even if a student turns in a B performance, the system now has built-in mechanisms to encourage schools to help that student master the subject. That new pressure will likely improve overall performance.

And finally, the third reason we are encouraged by the work being done through STAAR is that there has been some care taken to win buy-in throughout the system. The exam questions are being developed by teachers, and the teachers will also have access to key pieces of data. These facets of the system will help create quality exams and enable teachers to identify how best to help students raise their performance. This level of inclusion gives the system a better chance at success.

The first round of A through F district scores are due to be released on Aug. 15. Over time, each campus will get a letter grade, too. Our hope is that STAAR now enables parents and school officials to be better equipped as they make tough decisions.

Raising educational achievement isn’t easy. But then the teachers we know show up every day because they are dedicated to one of the hardest challenges facing us today.  

https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/editorials/2018/07/30/texas-new-school-accountability-system-could-reverse-falling-student-achievement

Respectfully,

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

Save the SAT Writing Test

Dear Friends,

An informative article in the Wall Street Journal written by Naomi Schaefer Riley. Ms. Riley is a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.

Save the SAT Writing Test

 Princeton and Stanford last week became the latest schools to drop the SAT essay requirement. The College Board made the section optional in 2016. Skeptics will applaud this essay’s demise as a return to a test that measures real aptitude. But the essay, introduced in 2005, turned out to be useful. Ditching it is another plan by colleges to make all standards of admissions subjective and easily rigged.

The writing test began in 2005 in order “to improve the validity of the test for predicting college success,” according to the College Board. A pilot program found that “scores on the new SAT writing section were slightly better than high school grades in predicting first-year college grades.”

There were problems with the exam. One MIT professor found students were rewarded for sheer length. Another criticism was that it wasn’t graded on accuracy. Students could make factual errors, or make things up.

In 2014 the College Board revised the essay test, asking students to read a passage and then answer a question with a persuasive argument using evidence from the text. Test-takers, their parents and guidance counselors criticized this new approach as well. There was too little time. It stressed students out. It raised the cost of preparation and of the test itself.

Princeton cited cost as its reason for eliminating the exam. But taking the essay part of the test adds only $14 to the registration fee, and poor kids can get waivers.

It is true that 25 minutes is not much time to write an essay, but one can discern a few things about a student’s command of grammar, vocabulary and logic from three paragraphs. True, grading a writing test is more subjective than scoring a multiple-choice test. But writing is a real skill, and colleges should measure it.

How will schools discern a student’s writing ability now? Primarily through application essays or papers graded by high school teachers. In other words, the applicants who get help from adults at home and at school will have the advantage. Parents, teachers or counselors can suggest themes that will appeal to admissions officers (hardship, discrimination, fighting for social justice), advise on writing structure and vocabulary, and proofread final submissions.

This kind of coddling continues in college, where students are encouraged to make use of campus writing tutors and then expect professors to let them submit multiple drafts and get feedback before incurring a real grade. Result: According to a 2016 survey released by PayScale, 44% of managers think “writing proficiency is the hard skill lacking the most among recent college graduates.”

If colleges really wanted to reduce applicants’ stress and stop wasting time and money, they might ask students to submit the SAT writing section instead of an application essay. Forget about the College Board; send the essay to the school’s freshman composition teachers for grading. That would put everyone on more equal footing and tell colleges something useful about their applicants.

Respectfully,

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com