MCISD officials expressed further concerns with mandatory state testing for public schools as legislators prepare to release the newest edition of an A-F system presented to all of the district’s students in the third grade or higher.
Teachers have gone on strike in states such as Oklahoma, Kentucky, West Virginia among others. While no local officials want to see that, MCISD Superintendent Keith Smith believes the state of Texas could be in for the same fate if parents don’t dig deep and truly understand what’s going on with public education.
“It just seems like an intentional and systematic approach to cut funding for public school districts,” said Smith. “They will also over-test our students to try and create a false reality. Truthfully, public schools are testing better than they ever have. However, you can take those scores out of context to make them appear worse if your intent is to privatize the system.”
While the exact parameters for the updated system are yet to be released, officials can gather a good idea of what to expect based on the state’s rhetoric as well as past decisions. Every student will be judged by the same test as their classmates in their grade, regardless of any mental or physical disabilities.
Local officials stressed the complicated nature of all that goes into this testing, even though the state’s original intent was to simplify the system. Data is inexplicably used from past graduating classes that influence current scores and students can possibly fail a subject in which they received high marks in simply because they didn't improve from the previous year. From third grade until their senior year of high school, every public school student in Texas will take anywhere from 22 to 44 standardized tests.
When the state mandated tests first came out, they were supposed to judge basic skills. Now, according to the Texas Commissioner of Education, its responsibility has grown to judge college readiness.
“The reality is that not every kid wants or needs to go to college,” said Smith. “But we’re forcing every student in the state to take a test that judges that. Maybe half of the public school students in Texas will go to college.”
MCISD Assistant Superintendent Keith West feels that the tests are actually used to judge the effectiveness of educators. If the overall results are poor enough, the state can shutdown a district entirely. This obviously has an effect on the financial success of that community as a whole. People will move away and the property values and local businesses will take hits.
“All this does is pit communities against each other and their school districts,” said West. “It’s sinister for that reason. Overall, you can’t compare the students of Madisonville to the bigger districts like Bryan.”
Madisonville likely won’t have as hard of a time as some of the state’s smaller schools districts with the A-F results, but officials feel as if the state’s interference especially takes a toll on the teachers. With mandated goals in place, there’s less room for their creativity and passion in the classroom.
“It’s not that there’s a ‘teacher shortage’ in Texas, which is the phrase a lot of people have been using,” said Principal C.K. Smith. “In reality, we have plenty of great teachers. This testing just drives them out.”
The new system is set to come out this week, but the test results themselves won’t be available for quite some time.
“This is a district with so many quality kids” said Superintendent Smith. “Our students have and will continue to go on to become successful in a wide variety of fields.”