Families & Communities

Student Testing

Pláticas en Acción
Student Testing

How would you feel if your child failed the school year based on one test? In recent years, Texas has begun using the score on a single test to decide whether a student is promoted to the next grade or whether a graduating student will receive a diploma.

What is the Issue
Students have been tested for decades using both locally-developed and standardized tests. But a student’s score on one state test, the TAKS, is increasingly being used to make high-stakes decisions about whether students should be promoted or held back, or whether a student otherwise eligible to graduate from high school will actually receive a diploma. This reliance on the TAKS score assumes that a single test can reflect all aspects of student achievement.

Recent research on the state testing program has shown three problems: (1) improvement in state test scores did not result in higher test scores on national tests; (2) even when scores on the state test rise, Texas students are not graduating or enrolling in college in higher numbers; and (3) students who are held back because of their test scores do no better the next year, and in many cases these students actually drop out before they graduate.

Many people believe that testing all students is necessary to hold schools accountable for producing good results. Given public interest and investment in public schools, it is appropriate and important that information be compiled that gives insights into how well schools are performing. We must make sure our schools are doing a good job with all of our students. But, for example, when the state tests lakes and rivers for water quality, it does not test all the water in them. Researchers get samples from each body of water to indicate the quality of the whole system. Texas could measure the performance of its schools by the same method – testing a sample of students in each school.

What Should be Done
Texas should change its testing policy in two important ways. First, it must reject the use of any one test score or other single measure as the primary basis for making student promotion or graduation decisions. Instead of one test being used to determine a student’s performance, a more inclusive standard could be used. Grade point averages, teacher’s opinions and parent judgments could all be used to measure student progress. Even a student’s extracurricular activities and involvement in community organizations could be taken into consideration.

Second, Texas should abandon the expensive and inefficient practice of testing all students. Texas could change the practice of testing all students and instead utilize a process of randomly selecting a sample of students to test. This approach could yield the same important information on school quality and performance and would cost a fraction of the current multi-million-dollar price.

What You Can Do
Talk to the educators in your children’s schools and let them know that you understand the unfairness of basing students’ futures on only one test without considering everything else the child accomplishes in the school and the community. Let them know that you also object to the expensive method of testing all students and you believe that the same information about the schools’ performance can be obtained from testing a sample of students from each school.

The Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) is a vanguard leadership development and research team working with people to create self-renewing schools that value and empower all children, families and communities. IDRA is an independent, private non-profit organization directed by María Robledo Montecel, Ph.D. IDRA, 5835 Callaghan Road, Suite 350, San Antonio, Texas 78228-1190; 210444-1710; contact@idra.org; www.idra.org. © 2003 by IDRA. • Parent Information Resource Center at IDRA •