Precarious State of Our Schools

After five a half years in office, Houston ISD Superintendent Terry Grier is still talking about what he will do as if he were new to town. In his State of the Schools speech last week, he promoted the same test-driven brand of school "improvement" that, by his own admission, has done little to improve student learning for the majority of HISD children. Sadly, he and the board majority who hired him show no signs of learning from their mistakes. Read more

End the Testing Frenzy: Opt Out

Keep your children home on the day of the STAAR Math test onApril 20 (Grades 5 & 8) and on April 21 (Grades 3, 4, 6, and 7). In spring 2015, the STAAR math test cannot be used as a condition of promotion in grades 3-8 due to new curriculum standards. Read more

Opt-Outs Reduce Colorado's 12th Grade Test Participation Rate to 83%

Seventeen percent of Colorado seniors refused to take the new state standardized tests in November 2014. The students and their parents decided to boycott (opt out) the state tests out of rising concern about the amount of testing.  Last year, in New York, over 30,000 parents boycotted the state tests and opted their children out of testing last spring. In Texas, parents in thirty districts boycotted the state tests. High stakes testing is narrowing the curriculum and is not measuring the skills we really want our children to learn- creativity, complex problem solving and the joy that comes from learning new things. This year Texas children do not need to pass the STAAR math test to be promoted to the next grade. There will be no additional test dates if you opt your child out of the STAAR math test. This is true in HISD too. Test dates: March 30 (grades 5 and 8) and April 21 (grades 3,4, 6,7 ) For more information, email Read more

Testing: How Much Is Too Much?

"In some places, tests — and preparation for them — are dominating the calendar and culture of schools and causing undue stress for students and educators." -Arne Duncan (surprised?  I was!) Read more

Editorial: The overvaluing of tests and benefits of not

The trend of testing "does not reflect the work cycle of the real world". Read more

Cy Fair Superintendent Mark Henry says that charters are bad for democracy

Great Houston Chronicle op ed by Cy Fair Superintendent Mark Henry on the lack of charter transparency and accountability and its effect on democracy. "...charter schools... have created an innovative way to make money on the backs of taxpayers without transparency and fiscal accountability while producing inferior results. "  Read more

Commercial Property owners should pay the real value in property taxes.

Most homeowners pay taxes on the real value of their property. But many large commercial property owners routinely report below-market values on their properties, then use appeals and lawsuits to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. According to an analysis by Real Values for Texas, over the last five years communities across Texas have lost an estimated $5.6 billion in tax revenue because the top 500 taxable commercial properties were appraised at below market value. Read more

Leverage Leadership has got to go!

Leverage Leadership (LL), a Harvard EdLab initiative, began as a pilot in 29 HISD schools in August 2014. The administration plans to expand it to 140 schools by the spring of 2015. This program is deeply flawed, from concept to execution, and poses a grave danger to the health of the district. The HISD school board should halt this program after Year 1 and require a third party evaluation before it is continued or expanded. Read more

First grade benchmark tests

First graders in Houston ISD now take practice tests to prepare for state STAAR tests that they will not take until third grade. So much for HB 5 reducing benchmark testing. Here, below, is an excerpt from a first grade benchmark exam. In this question the teacher reads the prompt to the children. The children are supposed to sound out the pictures. What do you think the second and third images represent? Your guess is as good as mine.  Read more

Ratliffs: The Rotary 4-Way Test vs School Vouchers

Is it the truth?Is it fair to all concerned?Will it build good will and better friendships?Will it be beneficial to all concerned?To school vouchers, the answers are no, no, no and no. Bill Ratliff, longtime Texas State Senator and Lt. Governor and Thomas Ratliff, current member of the State Board of Education, write about vouchers below. Bill Ratliff famously once said that "I am a Republican because I agree with the Republicans at least 51 percent of the time." Our state would run better with more moderating voices like them.  Read more below. Read more

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