By Chris McGuinness
Killeen Daily Herald
When members of the Copperas Cove School Independent District's Board of trustees voted to approve a resolution concerning high-stakes tests, they weren't alone.
With the board's unanimous vote in favor of the resolution, which contains strong language that states using standardized testing as the only means of assessment of student achievement has put a stranglehold on student learning in Texas districts, the district joined a growing number of districts across the state that have passed resolutions with similar language.
"You all know the burden this has put on teachers," said Rose Cameron, Cove's superintendent, at a board workshop held before the vote. "I've talked to students, too, and it's really frustrating and stressful for them as well."
As of May 11, 438 districts across Texas, representing about 42 percent of all districts and more than 2.3 million students, have passed such a resolution.
The language was crafted by the Texas Association of School Administrators, and calls for an end to using standardized tests, like the recently adopted State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, as an "end-all-be-all" measurement of a district's success.
"Essentially these districts are calling on the Legislature to re-examine the accountability system," said Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, a spokesperson for the Association. "It relies far too heavily on the results of a single test, and to use these tests as the only measurement is unfair and inaccurate."
It appears many school districts in Central Texas agree with Caputo's assessment. A list of districts that have passed the resolution shows that the Copperas Cove, Belton, Lampasas, Gatesville and Salado districts have signed. The Killeen Independent School District's board has not passed such a resolution, but Superintendent Robert Muller said during a March board meeting he was considering bringing a "localized" version of it before the members.
"The high-stakes testing is just really getting out of hand. It goes way beyond what the intent was," said Randall Hoyer, the Lampasas district's superintendent. "I no longer believe it is accomplishing what it was intended to do."
Hoyer said the testing was not only a poor yardstick for meeting accountability, but was a drain on his district's time and resources as well.
"Our staff of counselors and administrators are serving as testing coordinators, and that it takes up quite a bit of their time," Hoyer said. "It pulls teachers away from the classrooms to monitor the tests, and you end up hiring additional staff. ... It can really impact instruction on the campus."
The resolution calls for the Legislature to develop an accountability system that encompasses "multiple assessments" that "more accurately reflect what students know, appreciate and can do in terms of rigorous standards essential to their success."
"Assessments of a student's skills isn't just a pencil and paper test; it could be interpreted as a number of things," said Caputo. "We need to look at a child-centered model that will prepare them for the 21st century, and offer room for more creativity and innovation in our classrooms."
In addition to the hundreds of districts in Texas, a conglomeration of national advocacy groups and non-profits are trying to push a similar resolution on a national level. LaCoste-Caputo said districts in several states, including Florida and Pennsylvania, are also considering passing a similar resolution.
"People are recognizing that we are falling short, and they want to see that change," she said.
Hoyer hopes the rise in districts signing on to the resolution was a sign of changing attitudes toward the issue.
"I think we know we are going down the wrong road here," said Hoyer. "I think you are starting to see the pendulum come back around, and things will change."
Contact Chris McGuinness at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.