20 May A testing template in Texas
By Dale Chu
Last week, the Texas Education Agency advanced the conversation on fall testing by making optional end-of-year assessments (EOY) available to parents and educators free of charge. Covering most of the same grades and subject areas as the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR), these EOY assessments are being provided as a resource to help gauge the extent of the COVID slide. Their use is strictly voluntary, and the data will not be used for accountability purposes.
There’s a lot to like about Texas’ approach. First, the assessments cost nothing and are noncompulsory, removing two barriers to widespread adoption. Second, the assessments are aligned to state standards, which will be important to ensure kids aren’t being measured in a vacuum. Third, because there are no stakes attached to test, the focus can be appropriately kept on closing achievement gaps and targeting interventions. To be sure, Texas’ tack isn’t the only way to go, but we hope it’s one that other states might consider as they explore ways to ascertain the extent of the disruption to learning caused by the pandemic.
The big question is what the uptake will look like. Some have already expressed concerns that self-selection bias will limit any utility of the aggregate data. Although it’s not reason enough to not offer these assessments, it’s worth considering the implications if those who largely elect not to take them disproportionately come from districts serving the most marginalized communities. Having lived and taught in Texas myself for three years, I can attest that such a scenario is not beyond the imagination. Still, the state is practically a country in its own right. No matter how things shake out, we can stand to learn a lot from their effort.