Superintendent's column: More tests do not mean more learning

Robert Jaklich

During the months of April and May, our students in third through 10th grades are taking the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exams. The STAAR is the new state standardized testing program that will eventually include tests for all students in third through 12th grades.

Currently, there is quite a lot of dialogue this legislative session in regards to high-stakes testing and a push to create a more equitable accountability system.

In Texas, we currently educate 5 million students. We believe we need an accountability system that emphasizes learning and not "teaching to the test." Texas currently outspends every state in the nation on testing. A November 2012 Brookings Institution Study showed that California, which had nearly 1 million more students enrolled in third through eighth grades, spent approximately $53 million on standardized tests as compared to Texas, which is spending almost $90 million annually. Texas also leads the nation in the number of tests it requires students to pass in order to graduate from high school.

Recently, Raise Your Hand Texas provided Texas school districts with a list of states that are currently requiring End of Course (EOC) exams for graduation and the number of EOC exams a student must pass to graduate: Arkansas - 2; Florida - 3; Indiana - 2; Louisiana - 3; Mississippi - 4; New York - 5; Maryland - 4; Massachusetts - 1; Oklahoma - 4; Virginia - 6 and Texas - 15.

Furthermore, elementary and middle school students are currently required to take a total of 17 state assessment exams. Students in third through eighth grades are tested each year in reading and math, plus additional exams in science, writing or social studies, depending upon their grade level. These exams also have a time limit of four hours to complete.

In the VISD, we embrace the opportunity to be measured by our students' academic achievement, but we do not believe that more testing equals more learning. We hope this legislative session will provide us with an accountability system that includes a measurement indicator on student progress, advanced placement and dual credit participation, graduation rates, Career and Technology Education participation, SAT and ACT test scores and STEM endorsements.

Everyone in the VISD has been working diligently to prepare our students to be 21st century learners. On behalf of our Board of Trustees and the entire Victoria ISD, we thank you for your service as a "champion for our children" and for reminding us all that "Victoria ISD is too great for small dreams."

Robert Jaklich is the superintendent for the Victoria Independent School District. Contact him at 361-788-9202 or through the VISD website, visd.com.