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To test—or not to test: Is there really any question?

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In the best of times, the STAAR dictates (steals?) valuable instructional minutes by being the driving force of instruction - rather than the students being at the core of educational policy and practice.

In the best of times, the STAAR demeans and demoralizes students who are differently abled, differently cultured, and/or differently gifted.

In the best of times, the onus of the STAAR beats down the most dedicated of teachers - the teachers who are in this business to change lives, to teach lifelong learning, and to nurture the child who is, indeed, tomorrow's leader.

...and these are NOT the best of times.

In the past 11 months, educators have learned to pivot and turn, to create and navigate, to do whatever it takes to conquer whatever the next challenge is that comes down the Covid-highway.

In the past 11 months, entire school systems have taken operations into never before seenor even imaginedformats, frameworks, and functions.

In the past 11 months, students, their families, and their support systems have struggled to navigate not only technology, but alsoand more importantlythe loss of peer interaction, the loss of teacher-student connection, and the loss of socio-emotional structures that help to build strong, independent thinkers who, when faced with challenges in the future, will be empowered to do so.

Does all this mean that I think our students, teachers, and schools have not been learning and growing over the past 11 months? Absolutely not.

Our students and teachers and families and bus drivers and food service staff and administrators and ancillary staff and entire communities have learned without ceasing.

We have learned to pivot and whirl on a dime.

We have learned to work within brand new platforms in brand new circumstances and with very little guidance or support.

We have learned to be flexible and buoyant.

But not without cost.

Do educators want to know where our students stand? Absolutely.

Do we need to know and understand any and all learning gaps? You bet.

Is there a need for informed instructional planning? Of course.

But should we be requiring the STAAR test? In person?

Even if we DID have appropriate spaces to maintain safety protocols...

Even if we DID get all our students to come in for in-person testing...

Even if we DID have funds to pay the additional certified personnel required to administer the test according to the guidelines set forth by the State...

Our students are humans, and they're humans who would be in a place they don't want to be completing a task they don't value, for a purpose they don't understand.

In the best of times, the STAAR is a one-day glimpse that is supposed to capture the learning of an entire educational career to date.

In the best of times, not all students take it seriously.

In the best of times, test anxiety cripples students who want desperately to perform well, but whose emotional need is overwhelming.

In the best of times the test falls so very far short of measuring the knowledge of our students and does not begin to measure the value of their character and their thinking.

And these are NOT the best of times.

 

Krista Lee Marx

Elgin, Texas