What Should Replace the STAAR Test? – Statesman.com

For many Texans, the state’s current standardized test – the STAAR – represents everything that is wrong with public education. The annual assessments for grades 3 through 12 have been blamed for everything from killing teacher innovation in the classroom to creating unnecessary stress for students while failing to produce more prepared graduates.

So, Chairwoman Donna Bahorich is correct to restart the state’s conversation with a series of public forums to help shape what the next phase of accountability testing should look like. Bahorich is gathering public input for the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability, created by the Texas Legislature last session to help determine the state’s next steps in school accountability.

As reported by American-’s Julie Chang last weekend, the ideas from advocates and parents are wide-ranging, including winnowing down state standards that drive the current test, removing the requirement that students pass to graduate, the addition of online testing, and replacing high school student’s end-of-course exams with the ACT or SAT.

But before choosing a new testing regime, educators, policymakers, business leaders and parents need to figure out what exactly the state is testing for. After all, inappropriate use of a single test is what got public education into this accountability mess in the first place.

Are we checking to make sure that an individual student makes progress so they will be ready to enter the workforce or college upon graduation? Are we trying to make sure that parents know which schools are meeting state standards? Are we looking to weed out teachers who do not cover the state’s required curriculum? Are we double-checking that students have mastered specific skills and are getting early intervention if they are not?

For many Texans, the state’s current standardized test – the STAAR – represents everything that is wrong with public education. The annual assessments for grades 3 through 12 have been blamed for everything from killing teacher innovation in the classroom to creating unnecessary stress for students while failing to produce more prepared graduates.


Q&A: New State Board of Education chair Donna Bahorich on her homeschool background, vouchers and Jim Crow | Dallas Morning News

July 25, 2015

Newly appointed chair Donna Bahorich understands why some doubt that a home-schooling mom has the right background and empathy to set the curriculum and textbook standards for 5.2 million Texas public school students. Still, the Houston Republican and longtime associate of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick asks that you not hold her background and personal choices against her. She says she’s a consensus-builder who supports public schools and parental choice…

…You have to look back at the circumstances at the time. My oldest son, Mark, was starting his kindergarten year and we moved in November to another state, so it didn’t seem like the right choice for me to put him in a school, move to another state, put him in the middle of the semester in another school. So I thought, well, I would just do kindergarten and felt pretty comfortable that I could handle it. I soon discovered that I really enjoyed being the teacher, even with as much work as it was. I loved opening those doors and turning on those lights in his head. It was a tremendous amount of work, but it is something that I think back on and it was fun. And I just kept doing it. It just rolled from one year to the next and I enjoyed it.

I’m in favor of education, not any particular form of education. I am in favor of whatever works for families, and having options is a good thing. My experience with having to look at lesson plans, do curriculum gives me a pretty good feel for the kinds of things teachers do day-to-day. Teaching takes a lot of diligence and a whole lot of work, and I definitely got a sense of that, having worked with three different children on three different levels for 13 years. I didn’t have 25 kids to teach, but I have a sense of the challenges. Eighty-eight percent of the students in the country are publicly educated. You need to care, because they will determine the future of Texas and the country.

I got to do exciting, hands-on things with my kids — field trips, plays, re-enacting history. It is the excitement of teaching that I would like to see more of in our classrooms. We’ve been covered up with bureaucracy and mandates, though. I’d like to see a lot more flexibility in the classroom for teachers to have the opportunity to bring that excitement on the creative side.

Senate Bill 313 [The bill directed the State Board of Education to examine the statewide curriculum standards] was vetoed. It had directions to the state board to reduce the scope of the content of the standards to allow more time in classrooms. I think the entire board is behind a culling of the standards. You keep hearing “miles-wide, inches-deep.” We want to reduce the mileage a bit. I would like to see us go ahead and fulfill this legislative intent…

…I would ask people to have an open mind about me. I am a very hardworking person. I believe to compete globally and keep our economic edge, our students must be prepared. I’m 110 percent committed to that goal. I don’t know any better mission than that.


Bahorich: Controversy on textbooks is a “teachable moment” | www.mystatesman.com

Posted: 11:10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 9, 2015

Too often, we dismiss our schoolchildren as aloof, with eyes too buried in their text messages to see the world around them. But our kids are smarter than most of us realize — and they prove it to me every day.

Ninth-grader Coby Burren of Pearland is one of those kids. He noticed a caption on an illustration in a world geography textbook published by McGraw-Hill that declared that slave traders brought “workers” to U.S. shores in the 18th and 19th centuries. That poor choice of words resulted in an uproar on social media – and rightfully so.

There is a rush to find villains in this story, but we should instead focus on the hero. That’s because lost in the stampede to comment on this egregious error is a lesson that a ninth-grader taught all of us: words matter, and being honest about a shameful part of our history matters.

This is an opportunity to focus on the affront to morality that slavery was and is — and the pain that is its disgraceful legacy. That should be our takeaway. Instead, many are only too eager to promote a false narrative that calls into question our adopted textbooks as unreliable in telling the complete story, warts and all.

While our state standards are a frequent target, the American-Statesman took the time and effort to tell the whole story. A reporter who thoroughly reviewed Civil War coverage in the state’s new history textbooks also reached out to scholars, who concluded that the criticism of those textbooks is overblown. “Ballyhooed Texas textbooks don’t whitewash Civil War, scholars say,” the newspaper headline declared. Even the book containing the false caption has numerous other citations with detailed — and brutally honest — depictions of slavery in several other chapters…

…In the end, this story is about how we don’t have to just accept something that’s wrong. Even a high school freshman can make a difference and make a bad situation right, just as Coby Burren did. We just need to be more committed to making progress than to making a point. After all, the reason we study history is to make the future better than the past.


February 3, 2016 Comments are off Webmaster

Texas Governor Greg Abbott Gives State Board of Education Chair Donna Bahorich Nod of Approval

Bahorich hears kind remarks from Governor Abbott for her dedication to Texas Public Schools at reception during TASA’s Midwinter Conference January 25 in Austin

Donna Bahorich with Gov. Greg AbbottFebruary 1, 2016, Austin, TX – Texas Governor Greg Abbott praised the leadership of State Board of Education Chairwoman Donna Bahorich and encouraged the state’s education community, teachers, parents and business community to continue partnering with her to improve Texas public schools.

“Donna is a strong leader whose vision for the State Board of Education is leading to greater collaboration and smarter solutions to the educational challenges Texas faces. I have no doubt that with Donna at the helm, we will build a foundation of excellence for all our children,” said Abbott, speaking at a reception held in conjunction with the Texas Association of School Administrators Midwinter Conference.

One important effort Bahorich is spearheading is a series of statewide “Community Conversations” to garner input from parents, educators and the business community for an upcoming report by the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessment and Accountability. This kind of “boots on the ground” effort has not been done in nearly two decades.

Created by the Texas legislature with House Bill 2804, the Commission will make recommendations for student assessment and public school accountability in Texas. A report recommending statutory changes will be delivered to the governor and legislature by September 1, 2016.

Thus far, Education Board Chair Donna Bahorich has eight dates on the calendar and set out a protocol that includes facilitated small group discussions. Three different groups of stakeholders — educators, parents and business leaders — are invited to each discussion. Bahorich said each group’s perspective will  be important to consider in the deliberations by the Commission.

“I’m proud of the investments of time and effort the SBOE has made in widening communication opportunities throughout Texas as we continue looking at ways to effectively and fairly measure progress,” said Bahorich. “But, we have to change the current emphasis from ‘winners and losers’ to focusing on what we can learn that offers a way forward for each and every child. How do we use what we measure to make a difference?”

Governor Abbott noted that Bahorich has led in many important areas, like spearheading a coalition of math and economic professionals in the development of a critical life skills class  on personal finance Financial Math; seeing to it that computer coding is taught in every Texas school district so students can take advantage of tech industry growth in the state; and hosting learning roundtables on big education issues like educating our children in an increasingly digital age.

Upcoming Community Conversations

Thus far, Community Conversations have taken place in Houston, San Antonio and Austin. The schedule for remaining meetings are as follows:

El Paso, February 4

Brownsville, February 11

Dallas/Fort Worth, February 16-17

Kilgore, March 1

Amarillo, March 24

For additional information or to receive the most current schedule of Community Conversations, contact Emily Eldridge at eeldridge@crosswindpr.com or (248) 396-6240.

January 18, 2016 Comments are off Webmaster

San Antonio area asks for less focus on STAAR

By Alia Malik, amalik@express-news.net

About 150 people from the San Antonio area told State Board of Education members last week that they wanted to see less emphasis on testing in schools and more teacher input while designing assessments.

“The end goal is a real-world job, a real-life opportunity,” said Cameron Wilson, a senior at the International School of the Americas in the North East Independent School District. “It’s not to see how students answer A, B, C or D on a test.”

Comal ISD School BusThe group of educators, parents, students and business representatives had been invited to the forum, organized by State Board chairwoman Donna Bahorich at Education Service Center Region 20 on the East Side. Bahorich said she organized the forum, one of eight across the state, to collect input for an interim legislative commission on assessments and accountability.

Andrew Kim, superintendent of the Comal Independent School District, and Pauline Dow, associate superintendent for instruction at North East ISD, serve on the commission and attended Wednesday’s forum. Both said they were struck by the number of people urging a greater emphasis on student progress, rather than raw scores.

Dow said she was pleased that the state board asked for student input.

“I think that’s an important voice that’s not often included,” Dow said.

The Legislature overhauled the state accountability system months ago, lessening the importance of standardized test scores in school evaluations but requiring the state to grade schools next year on an A-F scale. Legislators also established “graduation committees” to award diplomas to some high school students who failed end-of-course exams needed to graduate.

The change to letter grades for schools angered educators. Many still believe that scores on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, play too much of a role in evaluating schools under the new system, said Sandra West, a biology professor at Texas State University who taught science in the Northside and North East ISDs.

“If it’s 55 percent, it’s harder for many other measures to make a difference, so there are questions about the validity of the current assessments to measure the full abilities of a child,” West said.

The new year brought a new education commissioner at the state level and a new education secretary at the federal level. The federal No Child Left Behind Act was also rewritten last month, giving states more flexibility over their own accountability systems. It was a welcome coincidence for the legislative commission, which was created before anyone knew that the NCLB rewrite would pass, Bahorich said.

“Perhaps the timing is better,” Bahorich said. “There’s more of an ability to create what we’re trying to get.”

Testing students from immigrant families could be more of a concern in San Antonio than the other three major metropolitan areas in Texas, said Marisa Perez, one of two state board members representing the city.

“Particularly in Northside and North East ISDs, there are huge populations of refugees and newly immigrated families, and so for a lot of those students, language is always going to be a concern,” Perez said.

April 9, 2015 Comments are off Webmaster

Math Standards and a Much Needed Transition

I am pleased that Commissioner Williams agreed on a MUCH needed transition year for 3rd-8th STAAR math accountability. The SBOE adopted new math standards in 2012 that were implemented in the 2014-15 school year. It had been 16 years since our math standards had been truly updated. The percent of new content ranged from 26% for 4th grade to as high as 55% in 6th grade. Many of the content skills moved to previous grades. Students and teachers have been mightily struggling all year with the switch to the new standards. I penned a letter in February, signed by my fellow SBOE members, asking the commissioner for relief on accountability for math results during the transition time in order to give teachers the space needed to fill gaps created when content moved. Thank you, Commissioner!