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VISD school board takes stand against standardized testing

By KBell
April 19, 2012 at 8:05 p.m.
Updated April 19, 2012 at 11:20 p.m.

A surprising high note punctuated the exhausting rundown of flaws with the state's standardized testing system at the Victoria school board meeting Thursday night.

After six "ayes," educators in the otherwise quiet audience burst to their feet and applauded the board's vote to signal the district is fed up with the state's meddling in local education.

Victoria school district joined a growing list of 344 school districts that have backed a resolution saying the state's over-reliance on standardized testing is "strangling our public schools."

"We've turned schools into factories," said Bernard Klimist, board vice president. "Our kids aren't learning. That's what's scaring me. Their whole life is governed by a test."

Much of the outrage comes during the first year of the state's new standardized test, the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness.

In what board members have called a rush-job, the Texas Education Agency has thrust the new tests into schools, even without offering much guidance as to performance standards - or what exactly it will take for students to succeed.

Board member Ross Mansker also pointed out the STAAR provisions call for 45 days of testing out of the 175 days students are in school.

"Couple that with lack of dollars from the Legislature in mandating all of this - the time and the money - and taking away not just our instructional staff, but our counseling and monitoring," Board President Tami Keeling said.

Even the Commissioner of Education Robert Scott said Texas' state testing system has become a "perversion of its original intent."

Board Secretary Estella De Los Santos backed that claim.

"It started as a criteria and reference test to let us know what the kids knew, what they didn't know, and it's grown into a standardized test in that we're comparing students . all over the state. It's not working," she said.

Rowland Elementary School teachers Michelle Bruchmiller and Karen Johnson said the board's assessment of the burden - and downright ineffectiveness - of the current standardized testing system was spot on.

"We nodded to each other when they said 'This is killing the love of learning for our students,'" Bruchmiller said.

While no one denied the need for some type of assessment, the sense is that the current high-stakes system is stifling learning as well as teachers.

At one point during the meeting, board member Michael DiSanto polled the room, asking who approved of the current testing system. The crowd was silent.

"I predict a severe teacher shortage in the years to come. The constant stress and strain that we're hanging on our teachers. . I see a train wreck coming," Board member Lou Svetlik said.

Rowland Principal James Taylor said he hopes the outcry from districts across the state will incite legislators to consider more effective testing techniques - like a beginning- and end-of-year assessment that measures student growth.

With the resolution, Keeling said, the board is giving a voice to those like Taylor, who are in the trenches daily.

"We ... advocate on behalf of the district those things that we are able to talk to our legislators about, and (we) speak loudly about what some of these decisions made in Austin look like on the ground in our community," she said. "If I have a problem with this resolution, it's that it doesn't go far enough."



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