Editor’s Note: This article initially included a passage, provided by a TAMSA official, which suggested that children are required by law in the state of Texas to take the STAAR test. At this time, we do not have the information we need to determine whether or not this is indeed correct, so we removed the passage from the article. We contacted TAMSA to seek clarification, and the founder confirmed that the organization’s mission is to seek changes in the test and that, at this time, they do not take a position as whether or not students are required by law to take the test.
STAAR testing is again upon us, and with it, a collective sigh from parents who don’t like standardized testing, for a host of reasons.
In 2011, a group of parents decided to form an organization to support what they call “a more reasoned approach to student testing.” The outgrowth of this grass roots movement became TAMSA, Texans Advocating For Meaningful Student Assessment.
TAMSA is advocating for the following during the 84th Legislative Session:
Decrease the number of tests to no more than required under federal law.
To the extent that Texas must comply with NCLB, current STAAR tests are still more than required under federal law. Limit high school standardized tests to Reading, Math, and Science. For grades 3-8: eliminate the 3 tests not required under NCLB. Also, give the TEA Commissioner explicit authority as well as a mandate to reduce the number of state assessments immediately upon passage of federal law reducing testing requirements.
Eliminate “high stakes” performance requirements for grade promotion and high school graduation.
Performance level on state assessments should not be tied to promotion in grades 5 and 8. State mandated assessments should not be tied to high school graduation requirements. Denying students a diploma based on a single measure when they have met all other graduation requirements puts them at high risk of poor post-secondary outcomes.
Replace writing EOCs with non-high stakes student portfolio review.
Revise writing assessment paradigm. Current assessments are not establishing an education environment conducive to strong writing. Replace current writing assessments with non-high stakes student portfolio.
Decrease the length of tests, and eliminate field-test questions.
State assessments should be designed to be age appropriate in length, and should include accommodations for students who need them. 3rd graders should not sit for multiple four-hour tests; nor should single subject high-school EOCs last 4-5 hours. Eliminate all field test essay questions, and minimize the amount of multiple choice field testing questions included in state-designed assessments to shorten assessment lengths (especially English I II EOCs).
Use diagnostic Norm Reference Tests (NRTs) to gauge student learning.
Evaluate how NRTs can replace STAAR tests and still meet the NCLB requirements, offering parents far more diagnostic data about student learning. In high school, fund the use of up to 2 NRTs: one in 10 th grade and one in 11 th grade, such as PSAT and SAT or PLAN and ACT at the district’s choice , to gauge college readiness.
Use random sampling testing for state accountability.
Publish by subgroup random samplings of the results of the state Reading and Math assessments.
Because it is the law that schools administer the tests and because school districts lose money when kids are not in school, TAMSA does not advocate for Opt Out. If you’d like more information about opting out in Texas, you can check out our article about Texas Parents Opt Out of State Tests.
If you’d like to get involved with TAMSA, the organization suggests that you:
- Connect with TAMSA by providing your email address. If you work for a school district, please use a PERSONAL email. You can also follow TAMSA on Facebook and Twitter.
- Call EVERY ONE of the Senate Education Committee and House Public Education committee members in addition to YOUR own legislators to ask them to support HB 742, HB 743, HB 1164, SB 149 (tell them WITHOUT the sunset provision), HB 1162 (eliminates high stakes), and HB 1673. All of these are bills to reduce emphasis on STAAR. Descriptions of these bills can be found here. Tell them the system is broken and insist that our children cannot be made to suffer punitive consequences as a result. You can email, but calls tend to have more impact. Remember, it only takes a minute to register your opinion with each office. They will not press you to elaborate, but will take down your position on the bills, and typically your name and address. Here is the information to reach these committee members (find your own legislator here):
2015 Senate Education Committee Members
Chair: Senator Larry Taylor, Larry.Taylor@senate.state.tx.us; 512-463-0111
Vice-Chair: Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr., Eddie.Lucio@senate.state.tx.us; 512-463-0127
Senator Paul Bettencourt, Paul.Bettencourt@senate.state.tx.us; 512-463-0107
Senator Donna Campbell, Donna.Campbell@senate.state.tx.us; 512-463-0125
Senator Sylvia Garcia, Sylvia.Garcia@senate.state.tx.us; 512-463-0106
Senator Don Huffines, Don.Huffines@senate.state.tx.us;512-463-0116
Senator Lois Kolkhorst, Lois.Kolkhorst@senate.state.tx.us;512-463-0118
Senator Jose Rodriguez, Jose.Rodriguez@senate.state.tx.us;512-463-0129
Senator Kel Seliger, Kel.Seliger@senate.state.tx.us;512-463-0131
Senator Van Taylor, Van.Taylor@senate.state.tx.us;512-463-0108
Senator Royce West, Royce.West@senate.state.tx.us; 512-463-0123
Easily cut and paste:
Larry.Taylor@senate.state.tx.us; Eddie.Lucio@senate.state.tx.us; Paul.Bettencourt@senate.state.tx.us; Donna.Campbell@senate.state.tx.us; Sylvia.Garcia@senate.state.tx.us; Don.Huffines@senate.state.tx.us; Lois.Kolkhorst@senate.state.tx.us; Jose.Rodriguez@senate.state.tx.us; Kel.Seliger@senate.state.tx.us; Van.Taylor@senate.state.tx.us; Royce.West@senate.state.tx.us
2015 House Education Committee Members
Chair: Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock; Jimmie.Aycock@house.state.tx.us; 512-463-0684
Vice Chair: Rep. Alma A. Allen; Alma.Allen@house.state.tx.us; 512-463-0744
Rep. Dwayne Bohac, Dwayne.Bohac@house.state.tx.us;512-463-0727
Rep. Joseph “Joe” Deshotel; Joe.Deshotel@house.state.tx.us; 512-463-0662
Rep. Harold V. Dutton Jr.; Harold.Dutton@house.state.tx.us; 512-463-0510
Rep. Marsha Farney; Marsha.Farney@house.state.tx.us; 512-463-0309
Rep. Rick Galindo; Rick.Galindo@house.state.tx.us;512-463-0269
Rep. Mary Gonzales; Mary.Gonzalez@house.state.tx.us;512-463-0613
Rep. Dan Huberty; Dan.Huberty@house.state.tx.us; 512-463-0520
Rep. Ken King; Ken.King@house.state.tx.us; 512-463-0736
Rep. Gary VanDeaver; Gary.VanDeaver@house.state.tx.us;512-463-0692
- Testify at the Capitol. TAMSA will post opportunities to testify as soon as these are identified. A document with tips on testifying at the Capitol can be found here.
Are you fed up with testing? Have you considered opting out?