If you turn on any news station lately, it's likely you'll hear something about the fiscal cliff. It irritates me to no end that the leaders of our government are getting so much press for not getting their jobs done. The focus is entirely wrong. Instead of discussing the implications of taxes and budget reform, we need to focus on educational accountability. This cliff is going to be nothing compared to the damage we inflict upon on our youth. Thanks to the over-emphasis of standardized testing, the incomprehensible guidelines of 100% of students meeting AYP in 2014 and the lack of an accurate vision, we are hurtling students into the Accountability Canyon by the droves.
Here in Texas, the uprising against the standardized testing has begun and I tell ya, it's likely to be a old fashioned gunfight before it's over. There are several groups stepping out and advocating for what's right for students...Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment...Mothers Against Drunk Testing... Save Texas Schools...even our own lawmakers and TEA Commissioner have begun speaking out against STAAR calling it a "perversion of it's original intent." Regardless of your political stance, we can all agree that requiring students to take EOC tests up to 105 times and still not graduate is truly sending students careening down the Accountability Canyon.
Moving on to NCLB...now that 2013 is here, we have one year to prepare for ALL of our students to be 100% passing in both reading and math at all levels. When NCLB began and the first charts showing the yearly increases in AYP were published, it seemed so distant. Well, the distant future is now the impending future and it will be here in a blink of an eye. Over half of the schools in Texas did not meet AYP this past year and I'm sure that number aligns with the nation as well. We have set our schools up for failure once again.
Let's discuss that 100% pass rate in reading. Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of all students being held accountable and aiming to be reading on level for their perspective grade levels/courses. The number one indicator for student achievement is reading level. In fact, research shows that if a student is not reading up to grade level by 3rd grade, he is more likely to not complete high school. Make that student a male African-American and you have almost a 75% chance he will drop out by 9th grade. Those are staggering statistics. But what does that mean for us? Yes, our students needs to be reading on level, but using a standardized test to get them there isn't going to work. We must be putting books in the hands of students, not pencils and bubblesheets.
From STAAR to NCLB and everything else in between, there is something larger looming out there...the Educational Accountability Canyon and our children are falling in it.