Reflections on Texas Senate Education Committee Public Hearing on Assessments 2.19.2013

Frustration was the key word at yesterday’s hearing. The committee heard from frustrated children, frustrated parents and frustrated teachers and the result was frustrated senators.

The legislature in order to fulfill its constitutional obligation to provide and efficient system of public free schools has spent the last 34 years and specifically the last 20 years implementing standards-based reform to improve education for all students in Texas.

The reforms have definitely helped some children that would have been left behind. However, no parent really  knows if their child was one of these and thus , none of these showed up at yesterday’s hearing to thank the senators for their reforms that had given their child a chance at a decent job or chance at college. It’s hard to say thanks when you don’t know you should say “thank you.”

However,  if your child has bee harmed by the reforms, you know it. And, you show up.   While standards-based reform has helped move some children out of the “shadow of the goalposts” it  has also created some major negative unintended consequences that are spiraling out of control. These issues are serious and can not be ignored.

For me, the most significant testimony was from an Austin 7th grade teacher; she simply stated that at this point in time in the school year 2001 her students had read 10 novels and that this year’s class had only read one! This is disturbing!

Listen to her powerful statement on February 19, 2013 Part II beginning at 4:01:38.

We need to abandon standards-based reform, but what can take its place? One solution is to focus on getting a great teacher in every classroom.  To this end, an immediate fix would be to raise the bar on admission for our colleges of education.  Admit into these 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.” Imagine what this fix would  look like in 20 to 34 years.

Raising the bar for future teachers would have an immediate impact on the number and quality of present educator preparation programs. Education policy makers should ponder what was done beginning a century ago to ensure that all doctors had had first-class medical training no matter what medical schools they had graduated from….Each state …had established academic requirements for admission to them (something that had rarely existed before) .

Don’t leave any child behind but don’t hold any child back either.

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