Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The STAAR Test or Zombie Apocalypse?

In a conversation with a parent a few weeks ago, we decided that taking the STAAR test, the new statewide assessment for the state of Texas, was like facing a zombie apocalypse.

The more I think about it, the more I believe it's true.

No, I don't believe in zombies.

I don't even know much about them.

So, I defer to the experts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They have posted instructions on how to survive a zombie apocalypse--a tongue-in-cheek look at emergency preparedness.

Yes, I know this was supposed to be information masked with humor. Remember the tongue-in-cheek comment? But this analogy is too good to pass up. So, here goes:

The CDC says zombies will most likely be created by Ataxic Neurodegenerative Satiety Deficiency Syndrome caused by some type of infection or the effects of radiation. Nearly everyone could be infected or exposed to radiation. Nearly every public school child from third through ninth grade will be "exposed" to the STAAR test.

Zombies would then be expected to proliferate, taking over entire countries. Benchmarks and instructional methods that "teach to the test" have taken over many districts because educators feel they have no other choice.

Zombies are a source of fear. Parents and children are scared to death that high school graduation won't happen because of the new test. But we're not talking about high school students here--tenth and eleventh graders will take the TAKS test. Families of elementary and junior high students are worried about events that won't take place for years. The anxiety has spread to teachers and administrators, who are concerned about their jobs.

It is well known that zombies eat brains. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has placed so much emphasis on testing, rather than class participation, work product, or true college preparation, that it appears the zombies have already been to Austin. And they're well-fed.

If you're escaping from a zombie, you don't necessarily have to outrun it. You just have to outrun your friends. The zombie will stop to eat your companions, and you will have enough of a lead to get away. That's how this test will be scored. After the scores are in, TEA will determine that the bottom portion will fail. And we won't know the results until January.

I don't know about you, but when we're using bad data from an unstandardized test to make decisions that impact the lives of thousands of Texas schoolchildren, the zombie apocalypse isn't looking so bad.