A Joshua native joined forces with parents and educators across the state who want legislators to revamp Texas’ way of high-stakes testing.
While thousands of Johnson County students were preparing for another round of State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness testing on Monday, Stacey Amick, a 1988 Joshua High School graduate and mother of two who now lives in Flower Mound, was busy telling parents why Texas needs to give its students a break.
Amick is a member of the grassroots organization Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment, whose members say they’re concerned with “teaching to the test” and the hundreds of millions of dollars going to Pearson, the company who makes the STAAR.
She met with community members Monday at the JHS auditorium.
“TAMSA doesn’t want to go in and say get rid of all testing and that we don’t want accountability,” Amick said. “All parents want testing in our schools. We want accountability in our schools but we are appalled with what’s happening in our classrooms.”
Amick and others have urged Texans to support House Public Education Committee Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen’s, House Bill 5, which the House overwhelmingly passed last week. The last hurdle is Senate passage, Amick said.
The bill, if passed, will scale down the number of STAAR end-of-course tests to five, versus the current 15, a number TAMSA supporters say is daunting.
“A lot of 10th-graders who failed their ninth-grade test still have their 10th-grade test to think about,” Amick said. “I can tell you these kids don’t have a lot of hope. They are starting 10th grade already behind.”
Students who feel that they’ve fallen too far behind are more likely to drop out of school, Amick said.
She said 25 states in America have no exit-level graduation tests. Those states are required to test under the No Child Left Behind law but don’t require their students to aim for unreachable goals to graduate.
“They manage not to fall off the face of the earth and are doing well,” Amick said.
The proposed bill offers new graduation pathways, in which high school students can pick and choose the classes they want to take instead of being forced into a four-year mold of mandated math, science, social studies and English courses.
Senate Bills 3 and 1724, authored by Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, also aim to scale back testing in similar ways, Amick said.
“This is where we are going to need your help,” she told attendees. “The lobbyists want testing, four-by-four curriculum [four core subjects for four years in high school], whether that’s relevant for a kid or not. They think that every single kid should go to college.”
According to information Amick presented, SAT and ACT scores flatlined the last several years, even as Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills scores have risen slightly. This at a time when 21.9 percent of Texans are graduating from college, versus 29.3 percent in the nation.
But, Amick said, testing woes didn’t happen overnight and they won’t be reversed overnight.
“This all came to pass because we weren’t paying attention,” she said. “We did not notice what was happening right under our noses.”
Joshua ISD Superintendent Fran Marek said she was pleased with the meeting’s turnout.
“This is better than we expected,” she said. “Everyone here can go home and call or email or text people that weren’t here and tell them what they need to do. They need to make that phone call tomorrow to say vote this week. Let’s get the word spread because that is what we want to do. Together we can make that difference.”