In October, we lost one week of instructional time to administer district benchmarks, ostensibly to get a snapshot of progress made towards this year’s STAAR.
Because so many students failed their STAAR tests last year, we(1) lost this week of instructional time due to students retaking exams, in some cases all 5 from last year.
In January, we will lose another week of instruction to administer district benchmarks, ostensibly to get a snapshot of progress made towards this year’s STAAR.
In May, we will lose a week of instruction to administer the STAAR tests, ostensibly to tell us how “college and career ready” our kids are.
In the aggregate, our district will lose 10 days of additional instructional time this year to “flex days.” To qualify, students must have eclipsed some arbitrary mark on STAAR or benchmark scores. They must also have a limited number of unexcused absences and a good discipline record. These lucky few are permitted to stay home on flex days while their peers go to school like any other day. Teachers are not permitted to introduce new topics from the curriculum and are expected to review TEKS on which students performed poorly on benchmarks and STAAR. This sanctioned absenteeism is an incentive for students to do better on their standardized assessments(2).
I was really worried that spending so much time testing and preparing for tests would be bad for schools because of all the missed opportunities for genuine learning or because of the undue influence that unscientific assessment instruments play in the success or failure of a school.
But, you know what, I think it’s worth it since Pearson can sleep easy on a bed made of $100 bills laced with sheets made of $100 bills in a house constructed of bricks made from compressed $100 bills on a lot planted with shreds of $100 bills on a street of similarly-constructed $100 bill homes whose denizens appointed a wad of $100 bills as its block captain(3).
Calvin Coolidge was right: the business of America is business. I don’t know why I ever thought we had a moral obligation to our citizens to provide for the general welfare when we can provide some very specific welfare to the corporate overseers of some very talented bubble test creators.
(1) “We” being the teachers who primarily teach sophomores.
(2) Because the most important message we can send as educators is that going to school is a punishment.
(3) The security guard who mans the gate to get into the subdivision is wearing a uniform of $100 bills. He’s not allowed to carry a gun, but he does carry a 10-pound sack of gold coins that he can swing at you.