This month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the end of standardized testing in his state, a move rightfully cheered by the Florida Education Association. Given that news, the Texas American Federation of Teachers looks forward to celebrating this milestone in Texas very soon.
Gov. Greg Abbott has made a habit of copying DeSantis' homework in recent months, so Texas educators hope legislation canceling STAAR permanently will be added to the agenda for the third special session of the Texas Legislature.
To encourage such a move, Texas AFT has launched a media and digital campaign to urge Abbott to follow Florida’s example and end standardized testing in Texas. The campaign includes advertising, along with efforts to mobilize AFT’s 65,000 members statewide.
In or out of a pandemic, the STAAR has numerous design flaws and a history of misuse. Research has shown that large-scale standardized testing cannot provide student-level insights and should not be used for high-stakes decision-making.
At best, an assessment like STAAR may give schools an idea of how students are understanding concepts. At worst, these improperly applied test scores are used to evaluate teachers, principals, schools and school districts.
When those test results are boiled down to simplified A-F grade labels, the state can use them to take over public schools, and politicians can use them to justify privatization efforts.
All of this comes with a price tag north of $90 million each year — all for information that would be more easily and reliably gathered by simply asking the teachers who monitor, evaluate and assess their students’ progress every day.
If Abbott wants to copy all of the extremist homework of Florida and other states on banning mask mandates, Texas AFT asserts that the least he could do is emulate a move that would actually help students and educators.
As the Florida Education Association noted in its response to DeSantis’ announcement, ending standardized testing frees up time for genuine teaching and learning.
Now in our third school year disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, actual, productive instructional time is a massive need for Texas educators.
The Texas Education Agency used the 2020-21 STAAR results to bolster the claim of rampant “learning loss” among students. But most teachers didn’t need weeks of test prep and testing to know that students — like most adults — were struggling through the global pandemic.
What they did need were safer classrooms, more resources, and more time to help students cope and recover. All of these are areas in which Abbott could help, and freeing up the time lost to STAAR is one way to start.
Texas AFT members will send letters to the governor this week, urging him to close our “achievement gap” with Florida and end high-stakes standardized testing in Texas.
“In an ongoing pandemic, the governor has devoted his time to denying schools the tools they need to keep students and staff safe,” said Zeph Capo, Texas AFT president. “It would be a pleasant change of pace for state leaders to do something that would free students and educators from the useless and harmful burden of standardized testing.”