Markowitz seeks State Board of Education seat

Published 6:31 pm Saturday, October 13, 2018

By Elizabeth Markowitz

It is time that we had a frank discussion about our public education system, Texas. By 2020, Texas is set to educate over 5.5 million students in the public K-12 education system, yet this great state ranks 40th in the nation when it comes to education outcomes. If you were to ask any student, parent, or teacher what they disliked about our education system, you would hear one response time and again: standardized testing. Despite the fact that standardized tests have been shown to exhibit a negative bias towards minority and disadvantaged populations, we have allowed standardized testing to become a cornerstone of Texas education. And as we have become more test-centric, we have also allowed the power of critical thought and practical knowledge to fall by the wayside.

Despite numerous studies that discuss the problematic nature of using standardized tests as a metric of a student, educator, or institutional achievement, students in Texas public schools must take dozens of state-mandated State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exams. In Texas, the STAAR exams are used as measures of student, teacher, and institutional achievement and, in turn, accountability. While content plays a role in standardized testing, the predictable nature of such tests allows individuals to improve scores with test instruction alone. Since such scores can dramatically improve through the use of test-taking skills while bypassing content knowledge, utilizing standardized tests as a means of assessment or potential achievement is inherently flawed. In the past three years, the state has funneled over $270 million in taxpayer money to the Educational Testing Service to develop the STAAR exams—and that figure does not even account for teacher pay during mock test administrations, the cost of test-preparation materials, and lost learning time.

Markowitz, Democratic Nominee for SBOE

While this is troubling for multiple reasons, it is particularly troubling when you consider that school funding is linked to student performance on STAAR exams. If a school fails to perform adequately on the STAAR exam, that school is in danger of closure. If a school does not have an adequate number of pupils participate in the STAAR exam, funding is not provided to that school. In short, a multiple-choice exam taken by children determines the amount of funding a school receives. The questionable nature of the STAAR test as a measure of accountability is a belief shared among students, parents, and educators. Recently, Elgin ISD superintendent Jodi Duron said the STAAR test cannot capture all that students achieve over a year. As Duron noted, “To suggest that we can deduce all of the learning that has occurred throughout the course of a school year from a four-hour test and then assign that school or district a grade based on the results of that test is simply not a responsible or accurate approach to accountability,” she said. Rather, such tests could be administered at the beginning of a school year in order to provide teachers with a more complete picture of the abilities of a student, class, or institution.

The quality of a society’s education system is directly linked to the quality of a society’s economic prosperity, health care quality, and crime rate. In fact, societies with highly ranked public education systems also rank highly in general quality of life. One-shot, high-stakes exams, like STAAR, should neither be used as a barrier to entry to the next level or study nor a requirement for graduation.  Such actions are in direct opposition to the idea that all students, regardless of race, geographical location, or socio-economic status, should receive a publicly funded, high-quality education.

The bottom line is simple: unless we do something to eliminate the testing culture in Texas we will simply be passing students through a system that does not provide them with the skills necessary to succeed in society. Education is the foundation of society, and our foundation is crumbling. We must reform our education system if we wish to develop productive members of the 21st-century global society in which we live. This November, we must elect leaders who believe in the power of public education and are willing to fight for our future. Vote for our future. Vote for education reform.


Elizabeth Markowitz is the Democratic candidate for State Board of Education