Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Visioning Network districts standing tall despite criticism

The controversy surrounding STAAR and end-of-course exams has been a powder keg for months. With his speech at Midwinter calling the state’s testing system a “perversion of its original intent,” Commissioner Robert Scott tossed a match right in the middle of it.

It’s no secret that school leaders, teachers, parents and students have long been frustrated with an over-emphasis on standardized testing, but the recent uproar has given a unique chance for school districts to highlight the visioning work TASA has led the last few years, and talk about how that vision has now become a mission, specifically Mission: School Transformation.

The North Texas Regional Consortium has been leading the way in going public with its visioning work and this week the Dallas Morning News ran a detailed story on their efforts.

The story pointed out that the consortium is made up of high-performing districts serving students from across the economic and demographic spectrum and included a graphic listing the districts’ four-year graduation rates and rates for students who are college-ready in math and English. The rates are all well above the state average and, in most cases, are stellar.

“Consortium members say their complaints can’t be dismissed as sour grapes, because they’ve done well on the TAKS and expect to succeed with the STAAR,” the story reads.

Still, Texas Association of Business president and CEO Bill Hammond told the Dallas Morning News that the high-performing districts are complaining about higher standards and he’s not impressed with their success, going so far as to call them “the tallest of the midgets.”

I don’t think the parents in Allen, Coppell, Frisco, Highland Park, Lewisville, McKinney, Plano Northwest, Richardson or Plano feel that way. And I know the students in those high-performing district would shatter that characterization. 

School district leaders believe in their students and strive every day to help them reach their potential. They welcome accountability but will not back down on delivering the message that our current system’s over reliance on standardized, high stakes testing is detrimental to our public schools and undermining any chance that educators have to transform a traditional system of schooling into a broad range of learning experiences that better prepares our students to live successfully and be competitive on a global stage.


  1. I missed Robert Scott's comments at TASA Mid-Winter, but I wish I had not. I am glad that he is voicing the feeling of many educators. TAKS has more narrowly focused instruction and eliminated any broadbased learning experiences from campuses. Hammond's comments seem harsh, but they are accurate when you realize that TAKS and it's cousins are tests of minimum basic skills. That means that an "Exemplary" rating is the highest of the minimum NOT, as people read into the rating, highest of the high. See my article "Facing the Illusion of 'Exemplary': Refocusing Teaching and Learning" in TASSP Texas Study of Secondary Education, 20(2), 30-34, that explains this reality.

  2. Businesses are anti-tax, which means they stand with Perry on controlling costs. Rather than talk honestly about school funding, they would rather shame districts who want to stand up for themselves with petty insults.

  3. Sam: You can see a video of Commissioner Scott's Midwinter speech on our website Here's a link to the video: