Monday, December 5, 2016

The True Costs of Assessment

Dear Texas Education Agency,

I am a mom. I am also a 24-year servant of public education, but first and foremost, I. AM. A. MOM.

And it is as a mom that I write to you today.

This week was created by you, and yet, no matter how many times I have seen you mess up and hurt the schoolchildren of Texas the last 3 decades, you've really outdone yourself this time.

Do we need assessment of the progress of schoolchildren in Texas? 

Do we need some kind of quality control to ensure that the curriculum and instruction in Texas is at the level it needs to be to produce the kind of graduates our world needs? 

But do we need to do it at the expense of every shred of hope and dignity that our children (and staff) have? Absolutely not.

This week is EOC Retest week, so what that means is that every high school student who has not already passed one of your MANDATED end-of-course- assessments will test this week. And if those students have not passed more than one, then yes, they will test in multiple areas this week.

It does not matter that these students passed the course. It does not matter that the teacher to whom we entrusted them for 9 months deemed their work worthy of a passing grade. What matters (in your eyes) is that on one random day in May, they did not meet YOUR passing standard of a 50-something question exam (intended to assess a 9-month course).

So now, during the week of Dec. 5, they retest.

Oh and did I mention that they retest in subjects that they have not had since LAST YEAR?
Yeah, that's fair.
Yeah, that's right.
That's totally in the best interest of kids. (Yes, Sheldon, that is sarcasm.)

I am the mom of 2 such kids.

However, one of my kids "only" has to face 1 test this week while my other faces THREE.
THREE END-OF-COURSE TESTS in subjects he had LAST YEAR, and did I mention that he will face those three tests in the midst of all of his other schoolwork that is happening right now? You know...from the classes in which he is currently enrolled.

Can you imagine would it must have been like to be in my kids' heads this past weekend?!

Do you know what it feels like to have some 3rd party (yes, you, TEA), continually tell you that you are not good enough, even though your parents and your teachers keep telling you that you are??

                 Oh, to have the same kind of quality control over you....

But while I have your attention, let me tell you what else I think you've completely missed the mark on. 504. You've heard of it? It has been around for quite some time.....

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 Section 504 prohibits discrimination that is based upon a disability. Section 504 requires that a child who has a legal diagnosis and is attending either an elementary or secondary school is entitled to accommodations that will ensure their success academically.

Do you know the definition of the word ENSURE? Somehow, I doubt it.

Did you know that under our state assessment system, a dyslexic kiddo, who gets oral administration on his assessments, can ONLY HAVE his questions and answer choices read to him? NOT the reading passages... Yes, because his dyslexia only rears its head when he's faced with questions, not with 2-page long reading passages. WHAT?!

Look up illogical in the dictionary and I am sure that the above graphic from the TEA Assessment Guidelines will be there as an illustrated example.

We, as parents, and we, as educators, faithfully fight the apathy and frustration that our students feel on a daily basis. But the apathy and frustration was not created by us. It was created by you.

My sons know that I believe in them and their abilities, but my heart BROKE this morning when my dyslexic son said, "I promise I will do my best on reading and science this week, but you may as well get ready because I will not be able to pass algebra. I just want you to be ready when those scores come."

You caused him to quit before he even began.

Luckily he has me and an army of teachers and educators who love him and are committed to his success. He is in a fabulous school in a caring & committed school district that is determined that he will not fail. We will do our best to undo the damage you have done to him for so many years of his precious life.

But he's not the only one. Lord, no, he's not the only one.

Look at your state averages for measures of how successful your plans are. Look at what subgroups keep failing your assessments again and again. And instead of looking at our kids and our teachers and our schools to determine fault, I encourage you to stop by your local furniture store on the way home and purchase a mirror. That is where you will find the appropriate spot to place your blame.

a Mom, who will never stop advocating for her kids

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