Standardized Testing: Ready, or, Not


Written by: Reagan Flowers, PhD

Alarms are going off here in Texas, as otherwise good students find themselves falling behind on state tests. {i} These tests measure knowledge two grades above the student’s current grade level, and poor performance can lead to measures as drastic as being retained a grade. So the question arises: do we need to meet students where they are or challenge students to best prepare them for C-STEM jobs of the future?

Some are calling it strange that kids who are reading on grade level are failing the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness test. It is even stranger that a kid can complete grades K-12, never pass the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness test and never receive accommodations that meet them where their abilities reside.

It seems it has become increasingly difficult to predict a student’s readiness for standardized tests, even when they are completing their homework, attending tutorials, taking practice exams, and showing up daily to school. There are teachers and parents who believe that their students are performing at or above grade level and those who are at a loss as to how they will get their students to pass their standardized tests.

Then there is what many could not have predicted, students’ low performance on standardized tests has led to dynamics that allow parents to fund private school education, decreasing enrollment numbers in public schools. We are also seeing increased enrollment in charter schools. All in all, the stakes are high, and many public schools are experiencing more challenges than they could have planned for.

It is interesting that a student at fifth and eighth grade can fail the state test, and be required to repeat a grade or attend summer school. Further, those students can go on to retake the test and fail the test yet again. As a result of aging out of elementary or middle school, they are then placed in the next grade at the next school level. Even more interesting are the high school students that fail the required standardized exams; these students are denied a high school diploma.

With only 40 percent of Texas third graders reading at grade level, it seems more students are being counted out, than counted in. It also seems that there are looming issues regarding equitable education, exclusionary learning opportunities, and lower expectations of some. It was President Barrack Obama in 2009 who said, “The relative decline of American education is untenable for our economy, unsustainable for our democracy, and unacceptable for our children, and we cannot afford to let it continue.”

Nearly 10 years later, we continue to face an untenable situation with public education, particularly with increasing literacy of minorities and economically disadvantaged students.

Whether standardized tests are testing above grade level, are being made hard to pass, as reported by Susan Szabo and Becky Sinclair in a report titled, “STAAR Reading Passages: The Readability is Too High,” or if literacy instruction is not rigorous enough as reported by Nancy Boyle in , “Reading Writing Rigor: Helping students achieve greater depth of knowledge in literacy”, we have a problem that desperately needs a solution.

So, is the solution going to come from placing qualified and accountable teachers in all classrooms; having engaged parents who become active advocates for the education of their student(s); school administrators providing more wrap around services for their student’s; or having school board members that put students and teachers first above all things? Ultimately, everyone needs to be accountable; after all, students have demonstrated that it is almost mission impossible to catch-up when they fall behind. Their suffering is far reaching, and in some instances, this impacts generations. Whether underprepared or misidentified, we must get it right. We owe it to our future.


1 reply added

  1. Doug Glenn February 28, 2019 Reply

    Dr. Flowers, I love this timely, thought-provoking piece…well done!

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