Texans want a better system for measuring academic achievement

Next year, Texas lawmakers will finally be able to break our state’s overreliance on a single test in teaching our children and evaluating our public schools. This is an opportunity to bring about the relief and sensible reform that parents and educators constantly support. It’s also a chance to move Texas toward a system that better tells us whether schools are meeting the expectations of employers and Texans.

Let’s all hope that lawmakers get up to speed at this time.

Our current accountability system relies heavily on the State of Texas Academic Readiness Assessment, better known as STAAR. In fact, STAAR performance is the only variable used to rate Texas elementary and middle schools in the state’s AF Campus Ranking System. This system defines success too narrowly while putting enormous pressure on children.

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Voters surveyed

Texans know that a single test is an inadequate measuring stick. In a Texas School Alliance science-based survey of Democratic, Republican and Independent voters in Texas earlier this year, 55% of all voters said they objected to STAAR being the sole determinant of certain rankings. schools, with only 26% supporting it. Additionally, 54% of all voters opposed the AF school grading system for elementary and middle schools.

The call for a broader accountability system also came from more than 15,000 Texans who participated in conversations and surveys sponsored by Raise Your Hand Texas over the past year, including the recent Measure What Matters report. said, “We firmly believe that our students are more of a one-day test. »

STAAR is not the only option

STAAR is not our only option for measuring schools. Teachers also know that success can and should be measured by graduating from high school, getting a job with a living wage, entering college or military service, engagement in fulfilling extracurricular activities, healthy friendships, growing confidence and curiosity, and more.

Teachers often hear from former students who have reached various milestones in life, thanking them for believing in them and encouraging them to pursue their dreams. These are the types of trophies that educators appreciate. Unfortunately, some of this vital work is difficult to measure in real time.

Texas needs to define success in a way that better reflects the schools’ true purpose. Other states have begun to use valid and reliable indicators in addition to state tests to provide a more comprehensive view of student achievement. Attendance rates, pre-kindergarten enrollment, teacher surveys, and extracurricular participation can all help us know if schools are doing well.

Importance of “soft skills”

At least that is what employers hear from us. Business coaching industry leaders recently described to Forbes the importance of 15 “soft skills,” such as empathy, creative problem solving and observation skills, that are important to demonstrate to potential employees. A measure like extracurricular participation will likely tell us more about a school’s ability to equip its students with these vital skills than the STAAR test.

The problem is not the STAAR alone. This is how the state uses the STAAR. There is an important role for STAAR (or a form of assessment), and that is to help inform teaching and monitor student progress. While STAAR can help measure a school’s success, we also need other metrics.

We are holding our state and our students back by clinging to the outdated notion that only tests can tell us if students are learning and if schools are working. No effective education policy has ever tested its path to prosperity. Our students will enter a world far more complex than the simplicity of our current accountability system.

For lawmakers who want to measure our schools more accurately, now is the time. They have a legislative session ahead of them and significant public opinion on their side. All we need is the will to do something better for our students and their future.

Brian Woods is superintendent of the Northside Independent School District and president of the Texas School Alliance, which represents the largest school districts in Texas. HD Chambers is the new executive director of the Texas School Alliance.

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