What’s the Point of Testing?


Our actions and how we spend our money tell us more about our priorities and motives than anything we tell ourselves or others. Consider then that Texas is moving forward with STARR testing in the spring. According to the Texas Tribune, $388 million in assessment contracts have been awarded to two companies, one of which has a 30+ year history of providing assessment services for Texas students.  

Concurrently, the state grapples with wide-spread academic regression and under-provision of Special Education supports and services to disabled students. The question on the table is, why is the state spending hundreds of millions on testing when the outcomes can be predicted and will likely be less-than-reliable due to inconsistent attendance and instruction?

Also mentioned in the article is the push to move testing for all students from paper-based to online only. According to the author, about 20% of Texas students test online, many of whom are students with disabilities or are English language learners. Once again, public education is reaching for a one-size-fits-all approach to educating children, this time, as it relates to standardized testing. The idea of taking a four hour test online is daunting for most adults. To imagine our less-than-prepared, anxious, or disabled students sitting in front of a computer for four hours, with the expectation to stay focused and engaged is troubling to say the least.

The negative impact of COVID-19 on student achievement is neither news or surprising to most educators or parents. Since we know there has been significant academic regression among many students, do we need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars for a test to tell us that? 

Decisions like these fuel my frustration with public education policy makers. The CDC suggests air circulation and filtration could be helpful toward opening schools nationwide. Many families would benefit from public provisions of masks. How many students could return to school face-to-face if some of those millions of dollars spent on testing could be spent on improving indoor air quality, providing Special Education services, or providing improved remediation and instruction?

To spend hundreds of millions of dollars to net state testing results that will not be used to rate schools, determine student graduation or retention, or offer a remotely accurate measure of academic instruction or student learning is unconscionable, wasteful, and a slap in the face to students, parents and taxpayers. If money spent is a measure of what we value, it appears the state of Texas is more interested in enriching powerhouse testing companies than the students they are charged with serving.

Dr. Teresa Sanders
Dr. Sanders is an international bestselling author, education researcher and student and family advocate in the education setting. Dr. Sanders has presented at international education conferences and is the founder of Safari Small Schools, an innovative micro school in Canton, Texas. Dr. Sanders created Safari Small Schools to meet the needs of learners who aren’t thriving in the traditional classroom. Dr. Sanders can be reached at DrSanders@safarismallschools.com.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Chalkboard Review team.

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