Friday, August 30, 2013

Standardized Testing

Imagine, if you will, a track coach whose high jumpers could not clear the bar at any height other than a bare minimum.  In conference with other coaches, the coach decided since his track team in training could not clear the bar, he would simply lower the bar so they would think they were excelling in high jumping.  Imagine the results when his team competed with others who had engaged in strenuous training.  This to many would seem like a ridiculous scenario, but it is one which apparently the State of Texas has decided to follow with regard to education. 

Following the Perot committee’s nationwide study concerning how to make education in Texas better, it was determined that testing students would at least give educators a benchmark of where they needed to concentrate their efforts.  Unfortunately, members of the Legislature went overboard with required testing.

Complaints have been overwhelming from school districts, educators and administrators that the number of tests required by the Legislature was so onerous the system was spending more time teaching the test than teaching the subject matter or cognitive thinking.  Although the recent Legislature made a significant stride by reducing the number of tests to be required of students throughout their public school career, the Commissioner of Education has taken a giant step backwards in preparing Texas’ students to be competitive in the worldwide market. 

Commissioner Michael Williams--former Railroad Commissioner and candidate for several other offices in Republican primaries--recently announced that he was cutting students more slack when it comes to required standardized testing.  Apparently Texas is looking bad because too many students were in danger of not graduating from high school because they could not pass the required tests.  Commissioner Williams is much like the high school coach whose teams could not get over the high bar, so they simply lowered the bar to make them think they were excelling in the high jump.  Reducing the testing standards simply amounts to “play like” education. 
It is no better than passing students from grade to grade whether or not they met the standards for moving forward.  Unfortunately, lowering the bar will make students feel better about themselves for a short time, only to learn hard lessons when they have to compete with better educated candidates for good paying jobs in the real world. 

Having too many students fail the standardized tests should not rally a call for lower standards, but more effort in teaching and educating young Texans to be ready for the real world experience when they get out of school.

Several studies have shown that students in other countries are beating the socks off Americans in general and Texans in particular in many areas of standardized testing.  Other studies have clearly shown that you get more out of students by demanding more--particularly when they are not living up to their full potential.  Texas students are not dumber than students their age in the rest of the world.  They are capable of learning, and we should encourage our politicians to demand excellence and hope that our children will respond with a greater effort so that down the line we are not exporting high-paying jobs, and so that once again the world is beating a path to America as an innovator in technology, learning and manufacturing.

Unchallenged athletes will never excel in competitive track meets.  Unchallenged students in the Texas education system will never win the future of innovative job creation in world competition.

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