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05/19/2014
 STAAR testing is finally almost over for this year, at least the first administration for the majority of students. I have seen a post being passed aorund from the Superintendent of the Paris school system in Austin. I have attached the complete text below, as I'm not sure how long it will stay up on their site. In it he makes a very strong case for parents to dial back some of the intensity felt about this test. The test has indeed become a punitive measure, designed to test teachers and schools more than students. Much of the pressure students feel about the test has as much to do with teachers and principals being worried about their jobs as with any need for the students to do well. 

In reality spending half of each academic year preparing for a single test is a great way to fail our children. Studies have shown that only 8-14% of the results of this test can be attributed to the teacher in the classroom. When schools reduce other activities like music, physical education, art, and recreation, they do a disservice to the children. Children should be able to achieve academic success, and still recieve a well rounded education. 

If students are struggling to achieve, parents should be informed about opportunities to improve, not just in the last 6 or 9 weeks of the school year, but throughout the year. When teachers and parents communicate, parents have the opportunity to work proactively to improve performance. The best way to perform well on any test is to be working at an academic level above what is being tested. Many schools know this, and have their students concentrating not on this year's materials, but next year's, or even the next. 

However, it is vital that students not be made to feel like their identity or their value be indicated by performance on this test. They must have the opportunity to play, to think, and to explore, outside of the confines of this single test, on this single day. 

Here is the text from the Paris ISD:

Dear Parents and Friends of PISD,Next week, you will be receiving your child's STAAR/TAKS results for the 2013-2014 school year. I'm writing this letter on behalf of PISD administrators, teachers, staff, and board members. These results should be considered as one of many instruments used to measure your child's growth, not the end-all of your child's learning for the year. These assessments do not reflect the quality of teaching or learning in our classrooms. Instead, they reflect a punitive; one size fits all test-driven system. Our students are much more than a once-a-year pencil and bubble sheet test. Your child means immeasurably more than just a number generated in Austin. There is no test that can assess all of what makes each child unique. The state mandated assessments are used by the state to score and rank our campuses and our district, however, this is not the only assessment we use for Paris ISD students. We have higher standards. Your child's achievements must be measured by a multitude of accomplishments throughout the year. Your individual child's academic growth is what is important, and we assess your child's growth from the start of the school year to the end of the school year. In contrast, your child is assessed by the state with a criterion-referenced test (STAAR), which assesses how your child performs on a single day and uses those results to compare your child to a predetermined standard set by bureaucrats in Austin and a testing company headquartered in London, England. We all know students do not master skills at the same rate; each individual child has their strengths and weaknesses. This single test cannot measure what we know about your child. Many of our students play sports, play musical instruments, dance, sing, speak multiple languages, write and perform poetry or songs, and create amazing works of art. We have students working multiple jobs at night to help support their family. Many of our students are the main caregivers for younger siblings late into the evening hours. Our classrooms are reflective of a multi-faceted student involved in a wide variety of activities, both academic and extra-curricular. It is not just drill and kill for one test.

Although the data from this assessment will help us know when to offer enrichment or intervention, we will use the state assessment for the purpose the original assessment system was created--a diagnostic tool for identifying areas of concern as well as strengths. Individual student data will be aligned with local assessment data to develop educational plans that ensure continued progress for our students. Your child's growth and love of learning are our main goals at PISD. Unfortunately, bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. and Austin have designed a one-size-fits-all assessment system that doesn't necessarily reflect your individual child's growth and achievements. Our students, not the state assessment, will be our main focus and top priority. Our instructional goals are to prepare each child to be college and/or career ready for the 21st Century.

So, yes, we live in a time when standardized test results are a reality. However, let's not let the STAAR test overshadow what is truly important--each individual child. Let us not forget to celebrate the vast and numerous accomplishments and successes the students of PISD have achieved this school year. It has been a great one!

Paul Jones,       

Superintendent Paris Independent School District           

                                                                                                                                     
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