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"Time To Ask the Right Questions: The Test Is Not the Problem"

by Donna Garner


Isn't it time for somebody to ask the right questions after reading "Texas students still struggling on slashed battery of state exams" published in the Dallas Morning News this morning (excerpts posted below)?

"Golly gee! Could the reason that so many students are not passing the STAAR/EOC tests be because over 875 school districts are using CSCOPE (rebranded "TEKS Resource System") and other digitized-but-expensive curriculum that is not in alignment with the "new" curriculum standards (TEKS) passed by the Texas State Board of Education in May 2008 through May 2012?"

"Could it be that Texas students are not prepared at each grade level for the STAAR/EOC's because CSCOPE and other digitized materials are shoddy, hit-and-miss products with assessments that are not tied to what the students have been taught previously?"

"Could it be that the Education Service Center's CSCOPE "curriculum management system" [rebranded "TEKS Resource System"] that costs taxpayers millions of dollars to purchase forces teachers to follow in lock-step a robotic system that does not allow them the flexibility to teach to their students' needs, stopping and re-teaching when their students have not reached mastery?"

"Could it be that CSCOPE does not teach a systematic approach to reading (i.e., teaching children to hear the sub-sounds of the English language and then learning how to sound those out quickly so that they can read syllables, then words, then phrases, then sentences, and then paragraphs fluently?"

"Could it be that CSCOPE also does not teach students grammar/usage/spelling/cursive at each grade level with the content increasing in depth and complexity from one grade level to the next so that students' writing and speaking abilities improve over time?"

"Could it be that students are not taught systematically how to write a correctly written expository and/or persuasive essay but instead are regurgitating personal essays based upon victimization examples that are falsified?"

"Could it be that when students do write something, their papers are not graded explicitly for content and for grammar/usage/spelling, but instead they are given a meaningless rubric score (e.g., 1, 2, 3, or 4)?"

"Could it be that because students' compositions are not graded thoroughly, they do not know what errors they have made?"

"Could it be that because students are not required to go back over their composition mistakes and correct them that they do not learn from their errors and improve their writing at each grade level?"

"Could it be that students are not reading the time-honored pieces of literature and history that will give them the background knowledge to write and speak logically and analytically?"

"Could it be that the reason so many students are doing poorly in their other classes is because they have not mastered English proficiency skills that form the basis for success in all other subjects?

Bottom line: It is obvious that the STAAR/EOC's are not the problem. The problem is that students are not prepared to take the tests because their teachers are not teaching them the right curriculum that is aligned with the TEKS upon which the STAAR/EOC's are based.

Getting rid of the tests does not solve the problem of poorly educated students who will one day go out into the world as poorly educated adults, unequipped to become capable workers and/or college students. Nor will they be equipped to become responsible citizens and members of society.

Basic skills have to be learned first before higher-level skills can be mastered. Trying to take a short-cut by avoiding mastering those basic skills will only serve to dumb down our society; our state and nation will suffer the consequences.


12.4.13 - Dallas Morning News -struggling-on-slashed-battery-of-state-exams.ece

Texas students still struggling on slashed battery of state exams


Austin Bureau

Published: 04 December 2013 10:45 PM

Updated: 04 December 2013 11:07 PM

Excerpts from this article:

AUSTIN - The Legislature scuttled 10 of the state's 15 high school end-of-course exams that students must pass to graduate. But for many students, test results from this fall indicate that might not have been enough.

.In English I writing, less than a third of the 94,000 high school sophomores retaking the tests passed the second time. That didn't include more than 41,000 who were reported as absent. That leaves nearly 182,000 students who still haven't passed - about 45 percent of the group.

Results were similar in English I reading. Just a quarter of students who were retested passed, while at least a third of all students needing to pass were absent on the testing dates. More than 120,000 still haven't passed - about a third of those students.

The results indicate that the Legislature's sweeping changes to the state's testing regime, the STAAR, may not alleviate concerns about high-stakes tests in Texas schools.

Parents, teacher groups and others pushed for the lower number of tests, warning that schools were too driven by test results. Now, students are struggling despite the fact that the required scores to pass the tests are fairly low and the students are at risk of not graduating.

Juniors (and some sophomores) retaking the English II reading and writing exams struggled on those exams, too. Nearly 124,000 have yet to pass the writing test. About 58,000 haven't passed in reading.

.For example, students had to correctly answer.about half the questions required for English I and II reading. Cutoff scores were just above 60 percent for the two writing exams.

State education officials point out that the STAAR, or State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, is more rigorous than the testing regime it replaced, the TAKS. For example, while the TAKS required students to write a personal narrative essay, the STAAR calls on students to write expository and persuasive essays.

Minority students have generally lagged behind whites on the end-of-course tests. For example, in English I writing this summer, only 23 percent of black students and 22 percent of Hispanics passed, while 32 percent of white students earned a passing score. There were similar gaps on other exams.

By the 2014-15 school year, all high school students will have to pass the five STAAR tests.

.The State Board of Education last month backed away from a proposal to require that most high school students take Algebra II to graduate. However, all students will still have to take English III.

Follow Terrence Stutz on Twitter at @t_stutz.


Here's the percentage of current Texas sophomores and juniors who, after two testing dates, have yet to pass end-of-course tests they must pass to graduate:

English I reading: 32 percent

English I writing: 45 percent

English II reading: 18 percent

English II writing: 39 percent

Algebra I: 20 percent

Biology: 13 percent

NOTE: Students must also pass a U.S. history exam, but few have taken that yet because the course generally comes later. The English exams will be combined starting next spring; a student who hasn't passed one section will have to retake the combined exam.

SOURCE: Texas Education Agency

Donna Garner

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