A Response to Bill Hammond

Mr. Bill Hammond, President and CEO of the Texas Association of Business, recently delivered a letter to all the legislators in Texas concerning the testing and accountability system. A copy of the entire letter can be viewed at this link: http://www.texasisd.com/article_122387.shtml.

In his letter, Mr. Hammond contends that all of the measures in HB 3 should be enforced immediately. Specifically, this is referring to counting the end of course tests as 15% of the students’ final grade. He states that “recent actions by opponents of a quality public education system in Texas are poised to set our state on a tragic course.”

He goes on to state that. “it’s time for the people with the most at stake in our education system – our students and their families, our state’s employers and Texas taxpayers – to stand up and make their voices heard.”

Okay, I am a parent of two school aged students (one 9th grader and one 6th grader) and  I am certainly a taxpayer at the local, state and federal levels. So, as Mr. Hammond suggests, I am going to make my voice heard.

As a parent, I absolutely and completely am opposed to counting any type of standardized test as part of my children’s final grade in a course. Here is why: Mr. Hammond has stated on several occassions that counting the test 15% of a student’s grade would provide “motivation” for the students to do well. Forgive me, sir, but it is not your business, nor the legislature’s business, to try to motivate my daughters. That is my job and my wife’s job. If “motivation” could be legislated, then we would not be facing any challenges in education. My suggestion is that you let the parents raise their own children.

Mr Hammond also states that, “If these local administrators would cut out all their own time-consuming ‘benchmark’ testing and practice and srill testing that drive parents and teachers crazy, we’d be left with very little, but highly valuable, testing at the end of the year.” Wow!! This statement is coming from the president and CEO of the Texas Association of Business. Following this same logic into business tells me that architects and engineers do not need to inspect building projects until the end of the project. No sense in wasting valuable time making sure things are done right during the actual construction phase! Business people should not be keeping up with monthly trends, revenues, or expenditures: just wait until the end of the year to see how your business is doing.

Finally, (I promise this is the last thing), Mr. Hammond makes the statement that, “Clearly, the status quo education and accountability  system is not acceptable. Texas is on a road to ruin if we do not raise our standards in public education. Today, only 16 percent of 9th graders in Texas public schools are career and college-ready as they graduate from high school.” I did not mis-type this quote. First, 9th graders are not ready to graduate. They still have 3 more years of high school. Second, let’s assume that the intent of the message was that only 16% of graduates are college ready and that this is an accurate figure. If this is true, I  cannot think of a more indicting statement to show that our past high stakes testing is not producing the intended outcomes. We have been through the TABS, the TAAS, and the TAKS testing schemes. Why do we think that moving to the STAAR test is all of a sudden going to solve all of our problems? Mr. Hammond makes the point himself if only 16% of our graduates are college and career ready.

Make no mistake, I do believe that schools should absolutely be held accountable for the qualtiy of education that they are providing our children. We are given parameters in which to operate. We are told how we will be “graded” publicly. Are we not supposed to make every effort to achieve the highest rating possible? When we believe that the score on a test is a true indication of the quality of education that our students receive, these are the things that happen. We have got to move beyond that in Texas and acknowledge that true quality can and should be shown throughout the year. Yes, a quality standardized test can be part of it; but, only part. It’s time for Texas to again take the lead and move beyond just test scores. I look forward to that happening.

Until that happens, rest assured that EISD will continue to work diligently to provide each and every child with a world-class education.


One thought on “A Response to Bill Hammond”

  1. I completely agree with you. I watch elementary students making themselves sick over standardized testing. We see example after example of students who do not test well but excel when given an alternate method for showing comprehension.

    I would proposed to Mr. Hammond that he have to take a test at the end of his fiscal year to earn the remaining 15% of his annual oversized salary. Test him on all that he should know, on his comprehension of legal document jargon that surely someone with his educational background should know. Test him on his vocabulary, communication, after all is paramount. I propose that we test him on his budget, he, as a leader of course would know every aspect of his company without the opportunity to look up that information, would he not?

    The answer is obvious. We have a fast-paced classroom setting. Every day our students are learning new skills. Then we test them on their ability to remember these skills without assistance. We are not teaching them to utilize their resources, instead we are merely testing their memory.

    Standardized testing promotes short-term memory comprehension. This is the reason that students can pass a test today, and a month later do not remember the information. It is simply because we teach to test. Legislators such as Mr. Hammond have forced our teachers into becoming test proctors instead of life changers.

    The shocking realization of only 16% of students are college ready should be clue number one that we are doing something wrong. The answer is rarely to add more pressure, it is instead to try a different method. Allow our teachers the freedom to teach students, to make learning fun and exciting, and to teach students how to use the information they are being taught.

    If we revamp our education system to teach our students material, passing test is the natural reaction to learning. We must allow students to become involved in their own education before they will become motivated. Allow them to have a voice. Why are law-makers who have never been in a classroom to teach the only voices being heard?

    So I say, Bravo Dr. Holcombe, for your well-written response!
    Andria Cook

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