Political influence on testing is nothing new. We are, after all, driven by federal and legislative mandate. This fact tends to complicate things significantly. Many claim that this has resulted in our losing our way, forgetting about the purpose of assessment, and misusing test data. That aside, Texas has recently fallen into the political spotlight, as Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Beto O’Rourke vows to end the STAAR tests. O’Rourke has repeatedly promised to do away with the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness if he’s elected governor in November. He considers the standardized tests a waste of valuable teaching time and a drain on state education funds. Here are the state and federal laws that challenge his promise:
Support for testing
- Some of the tests are federally required.
- The Every Student Succeeds Act requires states to administer annual tests in reading and math in the grades 3-8 and once in high school.
- Supporters of standardized tests say the exams provide teachers with valuable information on student progress and increase transparency for families.
Those against testing say
- High stakes put undue pressure on students and teachers and distract from a school’s purpose.
- It’s a waste of taxpayer dollars.
- Standardized testing in public schools should be used for diagnostic purposes, not for keeping score and accountability reasons.
Texas testing scene
- Texas goes beyond the federal requirements by requiring students to take a science test and a social studies test in eighth grade.
- High school students take subject-specific tests at the end of the year, and the state ties the test results to accountability scores.
- To eliminate these state requirements, O’Rourke would need support from the Legislature.
- He can support current efforts to eliminate the extra state requirements, but he can’t get rid of the federally required tests.
- Since O’Rourke cannot singlehandedly get rid of the test, he’d align the state with federal requirements and remove high-stakes consequences and the punitively aspects toward students.
- “While standardized tests serve as critical measures to identify student learning gaps and inform classroom instruction, they should never be the only tools used for grade advancement or high school graduation.” – Beto O’Rourke
- O’Rourke would require an independent evaluation of the validity, readability and instructional sensitivity of the STAAR test to guarantee its fairness.
- Lawmakers eliminated the grade retention requirement during the last legislative session and required districts to offer tutoring to any student who doesn’t meet grade-level expectations.
- Texas is one of only 11 states in the nation that require high school exit exams for graduation.