By Wendy Gragg
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS – While some educators celebrated improved state test scores Tuesday, others were calling for testing reform.
The Texas Federation of Teachers, at a Central Texas news conference, called on parents and others to take a look at what the organization sees as the state's over-emphasis on standardized testing.
"This is a discussion that has to take place statewide," TFT president Linda Bridges said.
Bridges said TFT isn't opposing the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test itself.
"We support the test because we believe you need an instrument to know where kids are," Bridges said.
She suggested TFT is more interested in getting the high-stakes testing hype under control.
"Our thrust is to say we need some sanity in testing. We don't need to over-test," she said.
A TFT panel of teachers and leaders from across the state is offering up a seven-point program for testing reform. Teachers should be given more authority in determining how to prepare for TAKS tests, TFT suggests, rather than being required to do "drill and practice" with the students too frequently.
The teachers' organization is also calling for more resources for schools that aren't making the grade and a continuation of those resources for three years. Also, in the reporting of standardized test scores, TFT suggests there should be an index, explaining other factors for each school that might have had an effect on that school's scores.
"Have we looked at a school's mobility factor? Have we looked at, is this a safe school?" Bridges said. "A learning environment index is a way to balance the playing field."
Bridges said testing reform is also needed because a paranoia has developed among teachers to, above all, make sure their students are ready for the TAKS tests. Phyllis Jones, president of the Killeen Federation of Teachers, said she has heard from teachers about the extreme amount of pressure they feel to teach to the TAKS.
"They're more worried about the testing than what they know they need to do," Jones said. "It's pushed – testing, testing, get it done, get it done, get it done."
Bridges said both a legislative committee and the League of Women Voters are expected in the fall to do studies on testing. Now is the time to make changes to the system, she said.
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