Op-Ed by Patrick Henry – Democratic Candidate for Texas House District 25 (HD 25)
My name is Patrick Henry and I am running for State Representative in House District 25.
So you are trapped in a room all day. You have to eat lunch in that room and your bathroom breaks are monitored. You are anxious. And you will be judged based on the result of this one test on this one day. You’ve been told the whole school, even the district depends on your performance on this one day. The dread you feel gripped your stomach the night before, and you tossed and turned until morning. Your family told you you’d do well not to worry.
If only that were possible.
Silent hours in a closed room, unable to do anything but stare at the others in the room until late in the afternoon when the testing day is over. And you are the teacher. For the students, they cry, they throw up, and eventually some of them give up, putting their heads down at the start. Welcome to testing in Texas, an exercise in futility even in a non Covid year.
Testing is required by the federal government to determine accountability for funding. They would like to see student, school, and district progress annually in all demographic groups. Federal funding for Title I and other programs comes to between 5 and 6 billion a year or roughly 10% of the education budget. As a sidebar to put the “rainy day fund” in perspective, there is a 10 billion dollar reserve. That’s not a gulf coast rainy day, maybe a West Texas rainy day.
So, no testing, no money.
Bush’s No Child Left Behind morphed into Obama’s Every Student Succeeds Act with some changes to make it more realistic. For 2020 states were able to get a Covid waiver, but Cruela De’vil… Betsy DeVoss says no waiver for 2021. Testing is as much a political football as anything else, so her decision may change as November nears.
Meanwhile our governor’s support on this issue echoes as loudly as butterfly wings. Silence. If the Governor grants a waiver, it would be good to do it soon because the first tests are in December. So, schools juggle online learning while the threat of testing diminishes time and focus on real student success. Part of the joy of Standardized testing is the practice test, data aggregation, remediation, scolding, threatening, then repeat.
So let’s start with the obvious.
We have students who lost months because of Harvey and now months because of Covid. Nobody has time for the damn STAAR test. Spend the 73 million statewide to get kids caught up. They may lose even more learning time this Fall if plans fall apart due to a spike in Covid cases. Teachers need time to develop layered lessons, time to create activities for closing the gaps, time to respond personally to students. They don’t need the burden of the states’ “STAAR treatment.”
Just as we don’t need the STAAR as a diagnostic on student progress, we surely don’t need it for School Accountability.
News flash-2020 sucked. There I saved 73 million dollars. Republican State Representative James White from Hillister said “I don’t want an accountability rating that really tells me who dodged Covid 19 and who had a hot spot.” So pretty much 2021 will suck in terms of accountability for school districts. Yes, students and schools are lagging and it is hurting low income and minority populations the most. I won’t even charge Mike Morath, the corrupt and incompetent commissioner of the Texas Education Agency, for that diagnosis.
This is what we are demanding of teachers: Please teach virtually, teach face to face, keep kids apart and masked. Please answer all parent emails promptly, sanitize your classroom, and try to treat children like little humans and not disease vectors. Group your students to reach those who did well last spring with virtual learning as well as those who were lost or had to drive to town to use the internet. Create lesson plans, write them in detail on the server, use 12 new technologies we just put in your email, and … Oh and let’s throw in the STAAR test, benchmarks, practice tests, and reports… I think not.
Let me be clear.
It does not help anyone except testing companies and stock holders to give the STAAR this school year. The results would be meaningless, telling us what we already know at a cost of $73 million. Our students do not need the added trauma. Our teachers have enough on their plates, let them teach. Let the testing staff help in ways that are meaningful for students. Let Ken Paxton sue Betsy DeVoss if need be and encourage the Governor to stand firm in protecting our public schools. I’d suggest voting all the teachers into office you can. There are a number of us running. Get your voting shoes on. Time is short.
Patrick Henry is running for State Representative for Texas House District 25. HD 25 encompasses Southern Brazoria County and all of Matagorda County. Patrick and his wife Kathy have been married 34 years and live in Angleton. They have two grown sons, Sean and David.