SBOE Chair Donna Bahorich heads home to Houston after a successful trip to San Antonio where she hosted her second ‘Community Conversation’ roundtable, a state-wide tour that Donna and the SBOE are hosting to develop thoughtful recommendations to take to the new Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability, which is scheduled to hold hearings around the state this year.
Donna is working hard to see that positive changes are made in our schools, like giving internet access to all of our students, making sure textbook review processes are as efficient as possible and, most of all, hearing from community members and educators to ensure all voices are represented.
I must mention, though, that Donna has run out of state-allocated funds and is traveling the state, hosting these efforts on her own dime. She needs support from Texans in order to continue making these positive changes.
As I’ve shared with you earlier, there will be a reception honoring Donna in Austin on Monday, January 25 from 5-7pm at the Hilton downtown. The Governor will also be there to make remarks. I hope you can join me in supporting Donna.
If you are unable to make it to the reception, please consider contributing online: http://www.donna4texas.com/make-a-contribution/
SBOE Chair admits “We’ve been awesome at collecting data, but we’re not awesome at how we are delivering that data,”
SAN ANTONIO – Last night’s discussion about the Texas accountability system in San Antonio may be one of the first times in months more than 150 people could gather in a room and talk about standardized testing in a civilized manner.
Discussions about accountability and testing in the last couple of sessions have been shrill and frustrated, with lawmakers generally hearing more complaints than solutions. But Donna Bahorich, chair of the State Board of Education, has prepared a slate of statewide meetings to drill for constructive feedback.
Bahorich booked the large meeting room at the Education Service Center in San Antonio for the full evening. SBOE members Marisa Perez and Ken Mercer joined her, along with the new chair of the Texas Commission on Next-Generation Accountability and Assessment, Comal ISD Superintendent Andrew Kim.
This was the second stop in a multi-city tour, and Bahorich already can see themes emerging across the stakeholder groups: students, educators, parents and business. Everyone wants to see an accountability system in Texas that produces meaningful information, with the emphasis on “meaningful.”
“We collect a lot of information. We’ve been awesome at collecting data, but we’re not awesome at how we are delivering that data,” Bahorich said. “We haven’t worked hard enough on that delivery piece. We’re not getting any clarity or guidance. It should be much more clear.”
Students at the meeting wanted a system that amounts to a meaningful exercise in that it would either recognize their accomplishments or guide their improvements.
“They want something that’s not just about the system, something that’s going to help the students move forward with their goals,” Bahorich said. “They want an assessment they can take and say, ‘This is pointing me in a good direction.’”
Some of the frustration comes from an inability to interpret what the data means, Bahorich said. Whatever the data is, and whatever test is used, the system must be clearly delivering information that parents, teachers and students can use.
“It can’t be opaque. We can’t say we’re doing it because we’re meeting a deadline,” Bahorich said. “People should be able to do something with the information we give them. We need to know where the kids are, what do they know, and how do we get them to where they need to go.”
SBOE expects different feedback for each city it visits. In San Antonio, participation was heavily weighted toward parents of special education students and advocates for children who are enrolled in bilingual education. Many were frustrated with the accountability system’s lack of accommodations.
Some of the more popular comments at the meeting included:
Parents want more flexibility in assessment. The goal should be to move on once an objective is accomplished, rather than drilling the same information again and again. They also wanted specific information on how to help their children.
Special education teachers noted that “modified is not really modified if you’re only changing a word or two.” More teacher input is needed in test creation, according to the group, and tests need to be accurately evaluated and validated.
Educators said meaningful assessment does not have to be high stakes every year to be effective. Schools need to be creating a learning atmosphere where progress, as well as mastery, is recognized. Assessment should be used to inspire and guide, rather than demoralize students.
Students need to understand what data is being used to measure college and career readiness. It should be clear to the student whether they are on a path to readiness, and what they need to do to improve.
Educators said the lack of consistency in the way the state has tested has led to often invalid and unreliable student data. Some added the tests are a measure of accountability and not a measure of student learning.