By Sheri Edwards
I am a graduate of Brazosport ISD, graduating in 1979 from Brazoswood High School. While my memory isn’t the sharpest, there’s still a few things I remember. In High School, we were required to take the following each year:
- History and/or Government
- Physical Education
We could choose electives for our other courses. Every couple of years we were required to get out our #2 pencils and take assessment tests — you remember the ones, where you had to completely fill in the circle on your answer sheet? As a student, I don’t remember stressing out over the tests — they were just something that was required, and in about a month (more or less), we would receive our personal assessment that the teachers would go over with our parents.
We were required to be taught the required curriculum. We were educated on the principles and foundations and testing was to ensure that we had learned our core instructions. I never felt that I was “being taught to test”. The tests were required, but seemed to cover our normal curriculum. In our studies, we were not only taught the required material, but also HOW to think so that we could work out our problems for ourselves. The teachers were always there for support and instruction, but we were advised that our teachers would not always be there to answer our questions (this, of course, was long before the internet). While evidenced by my own experience, I believe that testing does have its place in education, however, the “drill to the test” required by the NCLB (No Child Left Behind) unfunded mandates are part of the problem, and not the solution.
For the last few years, teachers have been complaining about being required to teach to a test. They are not allowed to educate but have become nothing more than administrative assistants to the Federal and State mandates that have forced them to prepare the students for testing instead of being able to educate with basic foundations. I can understand why teachers are so frustrated — they chose their professions because they wanted to educate.
I recall Ms. Jurgen’s American History class in my freshman year. We were studying the stock market crash of 1929, which she made into a game, whereby we all had choices of what stocks to purchase based on our studies of The Roaring 20’s prior to the crash. The whole class participated. On Friday, we all learned if we still had money or if we were poor based on what happened to the stocks we purchased. She taught us what happened with the run on banks, and the banks subsequently closing their doors, as well as how people reacted. When we started the next lesson, The Great Depression, we understood what the people in the country were truly facing. That year History became my favorite subject. With the current requirements, are teachers unable to present lessons in a similar fashion?
Nick Long, Candidate for Clear Creek Independent School District Board of Trustees, stated, “I certainly agree that some sort of assessment is needed, but every day spent testing is a day the student is not learning.”
Currently, Texas spends $94 Million a year on administering tests and that is not counting what the local schools are spending. Opponents say the tests are neither fair nor objective, that their use promotes a narrow curriculum and drill-like “teaching to the test,” and that excessive testing undermines America’s ability to produce innovators and critical thinkers.
Understanding that the STAAR test is a state-mandated assessment for our districts’ children, my question has been the same for all the state tests: TAAS, TAKS, and now STAAR. Are we truly getting an actual assessment of where our kids are on test day if we have spent prior days or weeks drilling them on what may be covered on the test? I am proud to say that I believe that our curriculum should be directed more toward our students’ needs, with our teachers and administrators working together. — Eddie Martinez Alvin ISD Trustee Pos. 5
It is time for us to find an SBOE-approved curriculum that can be taught that encompasses the testing. Other districts have taken this approach. It’s time to let the teachers get back to doing what they do best — teaching. We can only hope the Legislature does their job by eliminating a lot of the testing requirements, which would be a great start — Mark Patterson, Candidate for Alvin ISD Trustee Pos. 4
It is time for conservative School Board members to advocate by legislation and resolutions for a return to educating our students and against the overreach of the Department of Education and its unfunded mandates. Electing good candidates who are willing to ensure that teachers are allowed to teach should be our priority this May election.