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Testing season is here again

Dr. Sylvester Perez1

March 26, 2012

Dear SAISD Staff,

I have no doubt our campuses are ready for this week’s debut of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, better known as STAAR. Our high school students will kick off a new testing era with end-of-course exams, and middle and elementary school testing begins tomorrow.

Testing season always brings to mind two issues that I am passionate about: standardized testing and federal accountability. Specifically, I think about the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act — bipartisan legislation that had and continues to have good intentions. One of the best things that NCLB did when it took effect a decade ago was to shed light on each and every public school student in the nation. However, the federal goal of ensuring that 100 percent of all students are academically proficient in reading and math by 2014 is unrealistic. We need only examine students with severe special needs or upper-grade students who are recent immigrants to our country and do not have a command of the language to make that case.

I encourage you to stay informed of the reauthorization of NCLB and the impact it will have on our District and our students.

Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in San Antonio for the White House’s Hispanic Community Action Summit, mentioned the major overhaul of No Child Left Behind. We applaud the Secretary for his efforts and remain cautiously optimistic.

For our part, SAISD Administration is considering a resolution concerning high-stakes standardized testing that calls on the Texas Legislature to reexamine the public school accountability system. A number of Texas school boards have adopted this resolution, provided by the Texas Association of School Administrators.

Diane Ravitch, former Assistant Secretary of Education for George H.W. Bush, has reversed her stance on issues such as NCLB, school choice and standardized tests. In the book, “The Death of Life and the Great American School System,” Ravitch does a 180-degree turn from her initial stance on how to improve education. She points out that the main issue is standardized testing and claims that the whole point of testing now is to find out who we should punish. If students get low test scores, then we should figure out why and what we can do to help. Instead, she says, we figure out who is to blame and how fast we can punish them.

I met Mary Kusler, former Assistant Director for Government Relations with the American Association of School Administrators, a couple of years ago and recall how she spoke of the trend toward the “reactive,” as opposed to the “proactive.”

I urge you to stay abreast and involved in the political dialogue. Express your concerns to our nationally and state-elected officials. We are well aware of the issues locally, but unfortunately, local control has been diminished to “remote” control from Washington and Austin.

Best regards,
Dr. Sylvester Perez
Interim Superintendent

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