Teachers urge less emphasis on tests

February 19, 2008 8:23:20 AM PST
Teacher unions pressing for major reforms to school accountability measures are renewing calls for Texas to put less emphasis on high-stakes testing that educators blast as commanding too much classroom attention. The plea by all four teacher organizations in Texas come as leaders of a special state panel indicate changes are coming to the school accountability system when the Legislature reconvenes in January. The system annually rates campus and district performance based on test scores and graduation rates.

Sen. Florence Shapiro, who chairs the Senate education committee, said Monday that the system needs to be "recharged."

"It's time to look at our accountability system, evaluate it and decide what parts we want to keep, what we want to adjust and what we want to throw out," said Shapiro, a Plano Republican.

Testifying before the Select Committee on Public School Accountability, teachers unions complained the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test monopolizes classroom instruction and swallows the time teachers have to work with students.

Richard Kouri of the Texas State Teachers Association said the high-stakes test and school ratings now determine "how a child is viewed, how a school is viewed and even the salary of teachers."

"Everybody is living and dying based on what these accountability ratings show," Kouri said.

The high-stakes nature of the TAKS has been lambasted by teachers and parents, who argue that too much classroom time is spent preparing students for the test. Students must pass the test to graduate.

State ratings are anxiously awaited by superintendents, school boards, teachers and parents each year because they are the chief measure of how well schools are educating their students.

The Association of Texas Professional Educators reported that a recent survey of parents and teachers found they share "a fairly negative view of our current testing system."

The 15-member select committee, made up of lawmakers and residents, will make recommendations to the Legislature before the next session.