Educating with purpose

Published 6:14 am Saturday, April 28, 2018

By Michael Cole

Once again the evil that is STAAR descends on land like a modern plague of locusts. So, for the second time in as many months,I am going to climb on my education soapbox and attack that which is of Satan.


There is no better a waste of resources than the latest test that Texas decided to buy after generous donations to elected officials in Austin. Having worked for a school district, I can tell you there are times that I could almost swear that I could hear the Imperial Theme from Star Wars play in the halls as the test administrators delivered the tests to the classrooms.

For those of us in education, the lead up to the test days was a pure nightmare. If you did not have a class, you either were administering the test or watching students. If you were teaching a class that had some or most of the students gone, you now had the wonderful joy of rearranging your lesson plan so all your students were at the same spot.

Then there were the faculty meetings in preparation Given the choice of that and a root canal with no pain meds, hmm. Grab the drill my friend.

Anyway, I was ranting off track.

My rant on STAAR is this:

It is not an accurate assessment of a student’s knowledge. It is a complete waste of time.

This is the argument behind the test. State legislature thinks schools and teachers needs to be publicly accountable (for the argument of disclosure, I think elected officials should be required to release their transcripts. No offense, but the guy failing nuts and berries in 1979 should not be setting school policy!), so that state passes end of course, state assessment or any other of a host of skills to test on.

For fun, let’s tie it to money, because nothing gives districts more than a first year English teacher dropping the ball and making a school look bad.

So we know of course, in the state’s wisdom that it will force teachers and schools to teach harder to create the best educational experience.

No really.

We all know the result. Everything is tied to the letter “C”

In all of the determination to ensure that students are prepared to take STAAR, they are subject to a battery test taking strategies and pretests. The students are shown how to eliminate the two obviously bad choices, then reason out the two that are left to pick the best choice.

This skill of course prepares the student in the following way:

Zach is walking home when a radicalized multiple choice answer jumps out from the bushes to attack him. Does he

  1. Point out his accommodations give him reduced answer choices
  2. Ignore B since most tests do not utilize B as an answer choice
  3. Wonder how a multiple choice question was able to hide in the bushes
  4. Contemplate the fall of classical education in a post modern high tech society

Of course, the answer is “C”

It is always C.

And standardized tests are never the answer.

Standardized tests do not accurately measure the knowledge of the subject at hand. At best they demonstrate the test takers abilities to reason out an answer from vague context clues. No knowledge of History is required on the Social Studies Test if you can at least use one active brain cell to solve the problem.

There is no need of critical thinking skills or other necessary data sets.

Test taking strategies are of no use in college or other real world applications.

There is not a single real world application. When a student asks when they will ever need to know this, no one can answer why test taking skills are on that list.

To me, I think the most telling is the fact that private schools do not do STAAR or the other battery of tests to such a degree.

That not only says something about vouchers for schools but standardized tests.

If a private school does not see the point of the evil that is STAAR, why is it there?

If vouchers truly offered a competitive price set, would not either public schools be rid of STAAR or in the very least private schools be required to take them to offer a fair comparison.

If the state feels STAAR a waste of private schools, then they should be a waste of public resources.

Our students today will never, in any context, use what they are taught to pass STAAR. That time is better spent teaching real school.