The Statement of Fact
Over the last 34 years, the legislature has authorized five state tests (TABS, TEAMS, TAAS, TAKS, and STAAR,) two state curriculum standards (Essential Elements, and TEKS) and 20 years ago, the state Accountability System—its most ambitious reform of all. Today, as a result, it is the state—not the parents and teachers—that decide what is taught, how students are tested, and how well the schools do their job.
What do we have to show for all this effort?
- We have frustrated parents who—if they can afford it—are abandoning our public schools.
- We have frustrated teachers who are demoralized by their profession.
- We have frustrated children who, as one principal put it, “have lost their bounce.” Plus,
According to experienced teachers, we have seen no improvement in academic achievement.
- Our public schools being the overwhelming choice for most parents, because
- They know their child will have a great teacher.
- Texas having the undisputed reputation for the best schools in the country, and
- Businesses flocking to the state.
But most of all, imagine a Texas where the words “I am a public school teacher” immediately enlist an inner “Wow!” reaction; where “educator” becomes the most honored and highly sought out professional title.
We can do it!
We can do it! Here’s how.
First, abolish the state criterion-referenced tests and replace them with commercially available norm- referenced tests. At the beginning of each school year, have a one-month enrollment period for parents to select the best assessment for their child. Let the test makers educate our parents as they market their products.
- Give parents a significant role in their child’s education—increasing parental involvement, and, give them a sense of “buy-in” to the system.
- It would prevent “teaching to the test” as every teacher would have students taking multiple tests.
- And, it would give the state more meaningful feedback as these tests would measure the entire range of academic achievement.
Second, abolish the over 160 Educator Preparation Programs and replace them with 10 prestigious Colleges of Education around the state. The competition for one of these 10 slots would be fierce. Colleges and universities would battle for the best professors to include in their application. It would be “blood and guts”; the Marine Corps would seem like a bunch of cupcakes by comparison. Plus, these schools would immediately eliminate unproductive programs and courses.
Third, admit into these prestigious schools, only the top 20% of high school graduates as measured academically by the ACT/SAT—entirely merit based (not GPA, which is influenced by local school and teacher policies). Give these students full ride scholarships. These high-quality students will ensure that these prestigious schools provide our state with the best possible teachers.
With these teachers you would:
- Earn our parents cooperation and support, and
Restore our children’s “bounce.”
Lastly, you can then abolish the accountability system and replace it with nothing; it will be unnecessary. When our schools are being driven, they will not need to be pulled. Also, there will be no need for state standards and their associated culture wars; there will be no need for state tests with their associated waste of time.
With these teachers, we would prosper as no other state in the nation. We would have released the energy and the individual genius of future Texans to a greater extent than has ever been dreamed possible.