The following is an editorial on state-mandated testing written in September 2011 by Thomas Ratliff, the District 9 State Board of Education (SBOE) member. Since Ratliff was elected to SBOE in 2010, he has maintained open communications with ATPE and been a positive ally on the board. You can find more information on Ratliff and his SBOE position at www.thomasratliff.com.
Too much testing
In the fourth week of this academic year, I would like to borrow and tweak a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet to describe what is happening in public schools all over Texas, "The State Doth Test Too Much, Methinks."
Educators and school board members across the state are becoming painfully aware of how much testing the Texas Legislature has inflicted on our local schools and our children.
Did you know, this year our public schools will spend almost one out of every five days conducting tests for the state of Texas? Yes, that’s right, an average of almost one day a week, or nearly 20 percent of the school year. According to the Texas Education Agency, Texas public schools will spend 34 days out of the 185 day-long school year conducting tests mandated by state government, an average of four days per student. Keep in mind, this figure doesn’t include the number of days spent taking other tests (six-week tests, weekly quizzes, semester exams) or getting students ready to take the state’s tests. Due to the high-stakes nature of these tests, schools spend extra time getting their students ready to take the test by working on testing strategies and other things that take away from learning the material. I think this is over the top.
We have all heard politicians talk about wanting government to run like a business. If a business had its employees take 20 percent of their time to fill out government reports about how they are doing their job, that business wouldn’t be around very long. It’s not productive and adds little value. As the old saying goes, "A cow doesn’t get heavier the more you weigh it."
To put a dollar figure on this problem, consider this. Texas spends $44 billion per year on public education. Of that, almost $1 billion is spent on testing days, just for the state. If you are looking for ways to make public education more efficient, this seems like a good place to start.
To be clear, I support accountability. Should there be some general measure of how our public schools compare to one another? Absolutely. But I also believe the State of Texas should be accountable to the parents of public school students and explain why we must endure so much TESTING at the expense of LEARNING.
What these figures tell me is very simple. The Texas Legislature doesn’t truly believe in the term “Independent” School District. The Texas Legislature apparently believes that if THE STATE doesn’t test the kids, NOBODY will. I couldn’t disagree more. I believe in our local schools and trust them to do what’s best for their students. We don’t need more mandates or rules from Austin or Washington. We need less.
There was a day when the Texas Legislature set the standard of student expectations and left the rest up to the local school districts to get the students to meet or exceed that standard. But just like the days of Shakespeare, those days are long gone.
Reactions to Ratliff’s editorial? Send them to ATPE Governmental Relations.