Commentary: HB 1336 is a plan for STAAR testing that deserves support


At the recent Save Texas Schools rally, I listened to state Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) talk about his bipartisan bill, House Bill 1336. Leach is a certified public accountant who is pushing for truth and transparency in the amount of money our state spends each year on mandated STAAR testing.

He’s not just talking about how much money we pay Education Testing Service — $280 million over four years — but how much we are paying our professional teachers and staff members for the many hours we have to spend administering and monitoring these tests.

The bill states: “The annual financial management report must include … a description of the district’s total expenses related to administering an assessment instrument required.”

In other words, what exactly are we paying for — and how much are we spending annually? It’s shocking that no one before Leach has ever asked this question.

For instance, as a school librarian with 25 years of experience and a masters’ degree, I make $50,000 annually, or roughly $32 per hour — not counting the time I work outside of school hours. Texans are paying me $128 each time I monitor a STAAR test for four hours. During several days each year of STAAR testing, the Texas Education Agency threatens to strip us of our Texas teaching certificates if we read or do any other task while monitoring these tests. Once, I jokingly asked if it was OK for me to daydream — and I was told no. Just try to stop me! I’m writing this op-ed in my head.

Last legislative session, Pearson lost its testing contract to Education Testing Service in part because of the negative publicity Pearson garnered from advertising STAAR scoring jobs on Craigslist for $8 an hour. Maybe the state should pay outside test monitors $8 an hour and allow teachers the time to plan, grade or benefit from professional development.

The average annual teacher salary in Texas is $51,891 — $34 an hour. Extrapolate $136 for just one morning’s testing and multiply that by every public school teacher in Texas because, believe me, all hands are on deck during testing. Teachers are even stationed in hallways to monitor bathroom breaks. According to the Texas Tribune, the state hires 334,835 full-time teachers for 5.3 million public school children. Do the math. Four hours of STAAR testing is costing the state as much as $45 million in teacher pay alone. Add another $5 million for paraprofessional pay, and the total is as much as $50 million in personnel costs to administer one state exam.

I am not against testing and accountability per se — but I am against the kind of punitive, mandated, standardized testing that we’ve been forced to do for over two decades. Formative assessment — in which teachers continually monitor students for understanding and mastery — is critical to student learning growth. In contrast, the STAAR tests are post-mortem. By the time teachers receive the scores, it’s too late to intervene or reteach concepts. What STAAR tests measure most reliably is a student’s socioeconomic status. Ask yourselves this: What have we gotten from all this testing? From TEAMS to TAAS to TAKS to STAAR, can anyone point to a benefit?

Currently, the HB 1336 is pending in committee. Please contact your House representative to support Leach’s bill. If Texans know the true cost of all this state-mandated testing, we can all come together to eliminate or severely dial down these tests with the shared goal of using our talent and our treasure more wisely.

Stevenson is a longtime educator.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Letters to the editor: Dec. 18, 2017

Re: Dec. 5 article, “UT seeking 2 percent increase in tuition in 2018, and again in 2019,” and Dec. 7 article, “UT graduate students protest low wages, possible tax on waived tuition.” Two recent articles caught my eye in the Statesman. One was that the cost of tuition could increase at the University of Texas. The other was...
Opinion: Roy Moore debacle wasn’t all Steve Bannon’s fault

Republican politics was starting to feel like a version of Mel Brooks’ “The Producers.” In the play, two scammers devise a tax write-off scheme in which they will make a killing by losing money on a Broadway show. They reach for the most grotesque, tasteless musical the human mind can conceive — “Springtime for Hitler&rdquo...
‘Stormlight Archive’ series continues with gripping third book
‘Stormlight Archive’ series continues with gripping third book

Brandon Sanderson’s “Oathbringer” is an epic fantasy about the return of an ancient, world-destroying evil. God is dead. And Odium, the god who killed the Almighty, is unleashing terrible monsters to destroy humankind. Dalinar Kholin has bonded with the powerful spren known as the Stormfather and led his people to the lost city of...
Facebook comments: Dec. 17, 2017

As reported by the American-Statesman’s Kevin Lyttle, Austin city staffers identified eight city-owned sites that could house a Major League Soccer stadium or practice facility. Precourt Sports Ventures, owners of Columbus Crew SC, announced in October that it was exploring a move to Austin. The possible stadium sites include three pieces of...
Commentary: How housing costs are changing Central Texas’ demographics
Commentary: How housing costs are changing Central Texas’ demographics

The demographic trends in Texas are clear: The combination of a youthful Latino population and an aging white population has led to Latino dominance in the state’s population growth. Between 2006 and 2016, the Latino population grew six times more rapidly than the white population. Of the nearly 4.4 million persons added to the Texas population...
More Stories