The new federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act—dubbed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)—allows states the freedom to make a sharp turn away from the test-and-punish model of accountability promoted by the discredited No Child Left Behind Act. But in many states educators are finding state policy leaders reluctant to use their newfound freedom to develop alternative assessments and accountability measures. And Texas appears to be no exception. That’s why Texas AFT will be agitating for state education officials to have some meaningful engagement with stakeholders around the state, like the recent series of community forums held by State Board of Education members to inform state policy discussions of the next generation of assessments and accountability. The Texas ESSA implementation plan is due to be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education by next July.
Meanwhile, we urge you to take advantage of the opportunity to respond to a Texas Education Agency survey online and let state policymakers know they ought to take advantage of the leeway offered under the new federal law to move away from the current overemphasis on high-stakes standardized testing and its distorting effects on classroom instruction. The deadline for responses is Friday, November 18.
Don’t be discouraged if you find the short, nine-question survey a little frustrating. True, it provides only a constricted menu of options to consider, and it completely omits mention of the new freedom for states to remake their accountability system without high-stakes standardized testing. But it also leaves room for you to comment briefly on most questions and for “additional input” in response to the final question #9.
That’s an invitation you should accept to tell TEA something like this: “Texas needs to end high-stakes standardized state testing and support alternative performance-based assessments that let students show their social-emotional development and ability to think creatively and solve problems.“
We encourage you, in your comments on other questions, to reinforce this call for alternative assessments and accountability to replace the current high-stakes, test-and-punish system.