If Rich Kids Don’t Need the STAAR Tests – Nobody Does

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8grade-staar-mathBill McKenzie over at Belo Expectations has truly gone too far.

According to one of his latest editorials, Bill McKenzie thinks it’s great that kids have STAAR exams they can fail so they can learn that they aren’t on grade level.  Here’s what he actually said,

“None of us want any kids flunking the state’s achievement tests, whatever the subject. But thank goodness we have a metric like the STAAR exams to show whether Texas students are learning at grade level.”

Thank goodness?

I assume McKenzie feels so pumped up about the STAAR exams since he himself has never actually taught a group of 5th graders (or any other grade level), bonded with them, rooted for them and then watched them fail a ridiculous test that is anything but a “minimum skills” assessment.  And he’s certainly never had to sit down one-on-one with a child who has come to every single Saturday School and after-school tutoring session to tell them, “I’m sorry, but you did not pass.”

Only a cold-blooded shill for the corporate interests that work children like soulless mules could think it a good thing that young children are labeled as failures in elementary school, because that’s the reality of what the STAAR tests do.

But, according to McKenzie, don’t despair because the kids get to retake the tests 2 more times if they fail them in 5th or 8th grade!  Again, McKenzie obviously has no idea what those retake “opportunities” mean for the kids.  Throughout DISD, kids who fail a Reading or Math test at either 5th or 8th grade are sifted like chaff from wheat and subjected to a relentless schedule of test prep before the retake.  Many are pulled from their regular classes and “tutored” without mercy.  Recess, electives and afterschool activities?  Are you kidding?  There’s no time for that!  The Pearson test says the child is a failure, so the child must suffer until the Pearson test says the child is worthy of recess, PE, electives and afterschool activities.

Imagine being the child who fails the 2nd administration of the test: with a sick pit in their little stomachs, they have summer school ahead of them and the looming possibility that they will be retained if they fail the 3rd administration of McKenzie’s celebrated STAAR test.  No happy summer for those children.

And we wonder why kids drop out.

Meanwhile, affluent kids in private school never have to hear the McKenzie-approved tests made by the Pearson company tell them that they are failures.  Those lucky private school children simply grow up and develop their skills one year at a time along the way.  99% of them graduate with their cohort and have the confidence to tackle the SAT and ACT tests.  The majority sail into college, looking forward to the next adventure while looking back at their K-12 years with fondness, nostalgia and a sense of accomplishment.

Private school students don’t take the STAAR test because their parents know it’s an arbitrary, blows-with-the-political-wind profit generator for Pearson and education reformers; it is that and nothing more.

Call me crazy, but I disagree with a system that makes disadvantaged kids endure more and jump through more arbitrary hoops than rich kids just to get a high school diploma.  I disagree with a system that goads children into giving up and dropping out by subjecting them to tricky and confusing tests.

Unlike McKenzie, I am not thankful that young children are told they failed a test whose results so obviously correlate to family income. I am not thankful that poor children fail a test rich kids are protected from.  I am not thankful that RIGHT NOW in DISD, young children are bearing the guilt (that they let their school down) and the shame (for being a failure) as they sit through weeks of more test prep while the other kids play outside.

Maybe McKenzie should call Sandy Kress.  Kress now lives in Austin and is often described as one of the architects of NCLB and high-stakes testing.  Surprisingly, Kress has his own children in private schools!  He must not know how good the STAAR tests are for children, but Bill McKenzie could tip him off.

Or maybe McKenzie should take a tip from Kress and see that if rich kids don’t need the STAAR tests, nobody needs them.


Posted in Belo Expectations Tagged with: , , ,
retiredteacher like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@ E Kim   I had to break this up into 2 posts, as I was advised my comment was too long. 

What are these reformers really after?  Destroying lives and careers; attempting to eliminate unions so they can further lower teacher salaries, reduce benefits, do away with pensions. All this is part of the DISRUPTION plan. Keeping teachers (workers)  confused, hungry and compliant is all part of the corporate model.   Suburban kids will be able to "opt out of all this testing," while inner city kids will be given even more tests.  If this isn't an isidious plan, I don't know what is.

retiredteacher like.author.displayName 1 Like

@E Kim    What they are doing is DISRUPTION on steroids.  1)Attack the people who do the real work and 2)praise to the hilt the charlatan reformers who cause the disruption. This is ALSO the current business model. All one has to do is watch one of the cable financial news shows to hear the word "disruption" as a cure-all for company profits. What does it really mean? It means lower LABOR costs by firing and/or modifying performance standards and salary schedules. In  addition,  the Broad-trained, reform superintendents mask their true intent by masquerading as carers about students, especially the urban poor. They sometimes even appear to be holding back tears because they are SO concerned about the urban poor.

Common Sense5
Common Sense5

What a strange notion-supporting and compensating teachers.

You mean all those countries moving forward recruit from the top grads because their working conditions and pay are totally supportive of their professional educators?

And many "teacher advocates" want to low ball salaries while expecting miracle workers or 10,000 missionaries.

These countries don't treat teachers like missionaries who should do it for their rewards in heaven:


E Kim Selim
E Kim Selim like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 5 Like


As the inequities of the accountability system start to hit suburban and not just urban districts, the policy makers start to listen.Now we see accountability systems where the performance of one group does not take down the whole school.We see a cry for the reduction in testing and even the opting out of testing entirely.As 2014 approaches and the ridiculous goals of NCLB are not meet by suburban districts we see cries for waivers.Before this, it was ok to reconstitute urban schools, fire teachers and principals and destroy any sense of school community.

And yet Bill, you call for more of the same.It is obvious that there are business coalitions who believe what gets measured gets done and you are their front man.They are fighting to keep testing at all costs because they believe it is a valid measurement necessary for decision making.

What these business people fail to realize is the fallacy of their premise.What gets measured does not have real world ecological validity and what gets measured is not what is really important to them as business owners.

Ask a second grade child what 5-3 is and they say 2.Ask them how they can take five cups of water and turn it into two cups given they have an empty one cup container and most are lost.Show a physics student a multiple choice item on parallel circuits and they get it correct 100% of the time. Hand them wires, light bulbs and a battery and tell them to design a parallel circuit and most are lost.Ask middle school students to collaborate on a project after years of drill and kill for a test and they wait for you to tell them what to do.

Business people, you have a choice.We can hand over students who can create circuits or get it correct on a test.We can hand over students who are adept at seeing patterns in data because they manipulated real data or students who memorized blindly the formula for a mean or average and did well on a test.We can send you students who are confident enough to work collaboratively and are open-minded and creative or we can send you scared, docile workers who will wait for orders and show lack of initiative.Show me a TAKS or STAAR item that measures a student's planning ability or a student's capacity to design alternative solutions and test those strategies.After all, these are the real skills you want your workers to possess.

Go ahead Bill; advocate testing for your business friends.Please realize that the poorer the neighborhood the more likely the child will experience mindless test prep and lack any real fun learning.And do not even attempt to tell me the gap is closing based on TAKS/STAAR results.It is called a ceiling effect.If you make the test easier, the bottom comes up and top stays the same, thus falsely closing the gap. But then again, to you, Mike Rawlings, Mike Miles, Mike Morath and the business community the problem is ineffective principals and ineffective teachers as measured by your flawed measurement system.

Woodrow Alum
Woodrow Alum like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@E Kim Selim        Obama congratulated an 11 year old girl for her science project and show.  The activities reminded me of labs we used to do in class.  Now it is "memorize and use the formula." There is no time in class to do both so the activities are left out.  Besides there is no money for science supplies.  The money is spent on testing??

You are so correct in your analysis of education!!

E Kim Selim
E Kim Selim like.author.displayName 1 Like


My motto has been let adults defend for themselves and only say something if it hurts the children. I have seen many inequities over the past 25 years in DISD but never an attack on people so close to the children, i.e. principals and teachers. I will out my identity with the next sentence as I have said it to many people. All it takes is one caring adult for a child to be success. It is that simple. Most parents have a caring parent, many have a caring coach or caring teacher. How dare the district take away that caring teacher or principal based on politics.

BTW I cannot write such a long blog on my iPad so I pasted from Word. Does anyone know why the blanks after a period disappear?

Disrupted DISD
Disrupted DISD

@E Kim Selim

Well, you didn't "out" yourself with me because I have not heard anyone use that expression. 

But now I'll keep my ears open for it!  :-)

Disrupted DISD
Disrupted DISD like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@E Kim Selim 

This is an amazing, incisive analysis of the choices faced by our community.

Thank you for putting this in writing so that everyone can clearly understand the problem with the testing system.  Great job!

I think the DISDblog needs to recruit you to be a guest author.....

Persona non grata
Persona non grata

What's with the giant red "SOLD OUT" sign on Carla Ranger's blog?

Persona non grata
Persona non grata like.author.displayName 1 Like

"Are There Lessons from the History of School Reform?"

"The current crop of school reformers have a full agenda of Common Core standards, test-driven accountability, expanding parental choice through charters and vouchers, spreading virtual teaching and learning, and ridding classrooms of ineffective teachers based upon students’ test scores. These reformers have their eyes fixed on the future not the horrid present where schools, in their charitable view, are dinosaurs. These reformers are allergic to the history of school reform; they are ahistorical activists that carry the whiff of arrogance associated with the uninformed.

*They do not want to know what happened in schools when political coalitions between the 1890s-1940s believed that there was a mismatch between student skills and industrial needs. Vocationally-driven schools cranked out graduates who could enter skilled and semi-skilled industrial and white-collar jobs (See Benavot voc ed and Kanter voc ed). That was then. The current vocational drive to get all students into college and equip them with technological skills that no employer could turn away might give reformers pause in learning from the earlier generation of reformers’ impact on schooling.

*They do not want to know what happened in past efforts in various cities throughout mid-to-late 19th century schools in introducing widespread testing, evaluation of teachers based on those scores, and accountability. See here and Testing in 20th century.

*They do not want to know what happened when previous efforts to introduce innovative technologies into schools stumbled, got adapted in ways unforeseen by reformers, and even disappeared. See history of technology and here.

Were these starry-eyed reformers to pause and find out more about previous widespread efforts to transform schools along the lines they pursue, chances are they would find that that historical studies instil skepticism and, in Gordon Wood’s words, question “people’s ability to manipulate and control purposefully their own destinies.” Moreover, historical knowledge takes people off a roller-coaster of illusions and disillusions. “ So often reforms go awry and lead to untoward consequences, usually perverse ones, that reformers had not anticipated. History calls for humility among reformers, unfortunately, a trait in low supply among the current crop of amply-funded reformers.

These are the lessons that history teach school reformers."


Persona non grata
Persona non grata like.author.displayName 1 Like

Anyone take the latest guaranteed-anonymous-but-use-your-ID-number DISD survey?

Question samples?

I'm hearing that "delete before opening" is the prevailing response.


Delete before opening!

Persona non grata
Persona non grata like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

"The level of turmoil in the school district’s upper executive ranks is nonetheless alarming, especially given the fact that the instability involves people whom Miles handpicked as key to an academic turnaround."


Wow! So the alarm bells have gone off because the EXECTIVE SUITE at 3700 appears toxic! No mention EVER about the toxic environment for 10,000 teachers who are in direct contact with the children! No mention EVER about the toxic environment for the children taught by frustrated and fearful teachers!

Macho DMN husband to pleading DISD teachers/wife: "I do love you, Darlin', I just don't say it."???

And, we now have another in a series of what can hilariously be called "The DISD RESET BUTTON Editorials"! Well, not hilarious at all for the children of DISD....


@Persona non grata  It's always the "upper executive ranks" that concern Mr. Corporate Bill McKensie. Executives are always the ones who matter, while workers (teachers, principals) should be fired at will.

People like McKensie need to be driven out of town on a rail. He has no understanding of the purposes of education, and he is a total shill for EXECUTIVES/Corporations. The purpose of education is NOT to create compliant workers; it is to create thinkers and innovators. The problem is how does one do that when our GREAT LEADER's idea of learning revolves around DOLs that teach a tiny skill that involves no thinking? 

Disrupted DISD
Disrupted DISD like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

@straight talk

I agree with Abigail that you are not only late to the party, you missed it altogether.

The high performing districts you speak of, Highland Park, Coppell, etc., may well be passing the state tests with flying colors, but their superintendents and school boards recognize the narrowing of curriculum and harm that is being done to their students.  They have done something about it and are now part of a select group in Texas which can request waivers for the state testing for their students.  They will be formulating various methods of measuring student progress.

So while DISD students are corralled together doing meaningless test prep, if they could just cross the line into these neighboring districts, they might just learn something with real depth and meaning.  In this case, their zip code is indeed dictating their destiny.

Check the list of schools chosen- many are our neighbors, such as Highland Park, Coppell, Richardson, Irving, Lancaster, Lewisville, McKinney, Duncanville, Northwest ISD.  http://www.tea.state.tx.us/news_release.aspx?id=2147509002

Read this article for the more details: http://www.texastribune.org/texas-education/public-education/select-texas-schools-aim-pilot-testing-reforms/

A is for Abigail
A is for Abigail like.author.displayName 1 Like

@straight talk--Guess you're late to the party again.  Did you not hear about how the TX house is working on legislation to limit the number of STAAR tests "high performing" kids take?  So much for all of those HP, Southlake, etc parents being a-ok with the STAAR tests.

Once again, rich kids will get exempted and poor kids, without anyone to protect them from you and your ilk but us, get stuck working for Pearson and the education reformers.

13th Year
13th Year

I am pretty sure that McKenzie's kids are enrolled in a Dallas ISD school.  I don't always agree with his viewpoint, but I do think he wants DISD to improve, not just continue to bleed good students to the charters, private, and parochial schools.  

retiredteacher like.author.displayName 1 Like

v13th Year. Everyone wants our kids to do better, but McKensie's positions are wrong.


A is for Abigail
A is for Abigail like.author.displayName 1 Like

@13th Year Ah, but did you hear about how the TX house is working on a measure to limit testing for "high performing" kids?  That way, children with high-income parents, like McKenzie's kids, will be spared the testing.  Just in time...

Exceeds and Proud
Exceeds and Proud like.author.displayName 1 Like

Our kids who failed the Math test are now being subjected to 7 hours a day of Math. They are being tutored by teachers from many different grade levels-which means:

-Kids who passed are now being warehoused in the non-functioning library.

-All computer classes are canceled because they are working with small groups.

-Students of the teachers who were pulled are now being split between the other teachers.

Really, is this the model of high quality instruction?

Beer in Hand
Beer in Hand

Call OPR. Call your trustee, unless its Morath. Call your union. Document it in an email to your principal. Tell the parents.

A parent sued DISD because her kid failed a test higher up --because although she passed social studies and so on, she was never taught anything. She was spending all day, every day, in math and reading. Principal was lauded for it--for the test scores, until the exposure came.

If nothing else, tell the webmaster of this site.

A is for Abigail
A is for Abigail like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@Exceeds and Proud NO, it's definitely not good instruction, but it is the unintended consequence of these tests and the emphasis placed on them.

Miles knows this is going on and he does nothing to stop it.  Just like he's done nothing to stop the fights, the permanent subs and the money flying out the window of places like Roosevelt.

Miles is not here to improve anything but his bank account.

retiredteacher like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

Abigail. I agree. Mm os the worst superintendent ever, and I've seen many of them.

He is a total charlantan, and his leadership is an abomination.

Straight Talk
Straight Talk

Never has an article screamed more "The Bigotry of Low Expectations".

Affluent children do in fact take the STAAR (and its predecessor, the TAKS).  They live in Highland Park, Coppell, River Oaks, etc.  They are not taught the test.  They are taught the curriculum.  They take the state administered test and typically pass it with flying colors.  99%+ passing rates and (under the TAKS regime) 60%+ commended rates.  Typical time spent on the test?  Less than one hour.

The article would have you believe we should just continue to socially promote our children even if they don't understand the material.  That's what we've been doing forever.  Its why we have 20% dropout rates in high school and 50%+ dropout rates in higher ed.  They aren't prepared.  They been pushed thru a system which incentivizes them to care about graduation rates and not readiness for the next level.   The average SAT in DISD of <850 on reading and math ranks in the bottom quartile of all students nationwide.  And 850 is a strong score at a high school in South Dallas.  For those who take the test in those high schools, the average is closer to 750, which would be bottom 15% nationally.  The SAT has nothing to do with Pearson.  Neither does the ACT.  Our scores rank similarly low on that test.

Why don't we all take some accountability for our collective failure vs. blaming an assessment?  Higher quality Pre-K, more efforts to engage parents where they are vs. scheduling times at school that are convenient for teachers and not for parents....more focus on creating a college going culture and showing students why K-12 matters and what they can be in life if they apply themselves....more relationship based cultures where teachers truly believe EVERY student can learn.  The list goes on and on.


Straight? Talk. All that bigotrybof low expectations is so old hat that it ludicrous.

I never had low expectations, but this total focus on gesting leaves no time for enrichment

for our students. Everything in DISD is now TEST PREP. An entire 6 weeks in high school is spent testing. Don't you realize how much real instruction is being lost to this absurdity?


@Straight Talk First of all these affluent parents can afford to pay for SAT and ACT tudors.  They also pay for tudors whose kids aren't doing so well in these schools.  Creating a college culture is one thing, but this comes mostly from home.   I believe most teachers truly care, but they can't control the environment outside their classrooms. 

Furthermore, what about the special needs kids?  The STAR does no have STAR A (TAKS A before)  nor do they have STAR M Espanol.  I'm not seeing equity here.  And, everyone counts whether ready or not? 

Yes, every child can learn, but not always in the exact time frame or same way. 

And,  a standardized TEST does not always measure what a student knows. 

Woodrow Alum
Woodrow Alum

@dallasres @Straight Talk   tutors!  They help only if the student really cares if they  care about the SAT.  Don't need to take it if you go to community college!

OnceAgain like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 5 Like

@Straight Talk 

Hey Moron--Why don't you interview the superintendent and former superintendent of HP and get an ear load on what they think of these tests? They think they are unnecessary and a distraction. They want them gone.

As far as your obsession with college readiness numbers, our high schools with the highest levels of poverty look just like Houston high schools with the highest levels of poverty after Grier has replaced all the experienced teachers and loaded up with TFA. Their SAT scores look exactly like every other high poverty high school in the nation that is a neighborhood, comprehensive high school.

Your hysterics are misplaced. You are comparing SAT scores that correlate perfectly with income. At the bottom will always be high poverty neighborhood comprehensive high schools. There is nothing shocking about this.

The hysteria over SAT scores is ridiculous. Kids, including a large percentage of middle and lower class white kids, never scored 1100 on their SATs and graduated from our best universities. Who cares?

You are creating a problem that is actually based on poverty because you want to be the solution.

You are not the solution. The solutions you provided above sound like you are an Uplift clone when they and every other charter would NEVER open their doors to a comprehensive high school in a blighted area. KIPP refuses. The "solutions" you are giving are simplistic pablum.

Why don't you go away until you get a pledge for Uplift or KIPP or YES to reopen as a comprehensive high school to take the place of Spruce or Madison or SOC or Roosevelt.

They WILL NOT DO IT. THEY WOULD FAIL. Feinberg has admitted they will fail if they attempt their methods in a neighborhood high school.

Stop promoting kids who haven't mastered on-level reading? What the hell makes you think all kids learn at the same rate?

Best of all--where in the hell are the extra Title I reading and special ed teachers who were supposed to be available to help the fifth and eighth graders?

That is where all the drama and hysterics end. Where exactly did the money go that was supposed to be used for reading and math specialists for these children? Where were the special ed teachers that should have been assigned to classrooms?

The money was allotted. Where exactly did it go?

Lawonourside like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

We will soon know about the Title 1 money. We know where it did not go. It did not go where it was supposed to go. It did not go to help the kids that so needed it. Dallas Kids First which kids first? not the poor ones. Educate Dallas...not for the poor kids. Ken Barf and crew continue to lap up the dribble from Morath, Miles, Rawlings, McKenzie, and the like. Can't wait for the investigations coming.  

Tovar Fan
Tovar Fan like.author.displayName 1 Like

Bill Betzen was oh so right in pointing out the conflict of interest Lew Blackburn has while sitting on the board of Dallas SCAM.

Now it seems Richard Marquez is being told by Delia Jasso to sell a property the Can bought when it thought it would branch out into the valet business in north Oak Cliff.

So many things are wrong with that charter group, it's hard to hang it all on Lew's conflict. Marquez selling his bogus reading program to the charter while he is CEO and on the board. Bringing in two shifts of kids to get reimbursed by the state twice in one day and accountable to no one for anything.

And now Marquez is told by his board member to get out of his attempted valet business.

Better idea is to move Marquez out of the school business and let him open a used car lot on Jefferson. It's always been his calling. He can sit around and gossip all day like he does now while people kick the tires on used cars. It's always been his calling.

Lew can go find a real job. Instead of paying a whole bunch of DISD flakes, the money can go to the kids.

Straight Talk
Straight Talk

@Tovar Fan This is smoke.  Lew Blackburn is not trying to create more students for CAN Academy.  Try another tack.  You're way over your skis.

A is for Abigail
A is for Abigail like.author.displayName 1 Like

@Straight Talk @Tovar Fan Hey Straight Talk, aren't you the same one who said the sexual predator guy over at Marsh had been there 4 years?  That he wasn't hired by Glover and Miles?

You were wrong.

And now you are wrong again.  Lew Blackburn and Mike Morath are cancers on this district; Bill Betzen makes excellent points about Blackburn's conflict of interest and connects the dots.

You're a blowhard and a paid blogger for someone, but we are here to call you out every time you lie.

Pancho Villa
Pancho Villa

@A is for Abigail, NO! He is a 1/2 gringo mentiroso. Jajajaja. Jajaja.

Pancho Villa
Pancho Villa

Tell him again! Call you out  in English and en Español.


You seem to know him so well. Has Lew had  you over for dinner at his homestead in Grand Prairie? Or was it BBQ from whatever you are smoking.

OnceAgain like.author.displayName 1 Like

@Straight Talk @Tovar Fan 

And you are way out of your league. You have no history with this district. You don't know the mess Tovar had when he came to that school.

 Miles is a failure and so are you, Morath. 

E Kim Selim
E Kim Selim

I agree. Given the knowledge of data, Straight Talk is either Todd Williams or Mike Morath. The prior references to Sat Act, Wall Street, south Dallas school performance, the data spin on Staar results and corny quotes leads me toward Todd Williams. Morath tends to make superficial and naive interpretation of data, Williams has his own world view and Straight Talks view are typical of a Highland Park reformer.

Pancho Villa
Pancho Villa

@Lawonourside, wait a damn second I call his tale first! Shit! jajajajajajajajaj. jajajaja. The ship is sinking as fast as can say VIVA DISD! Oh shit, jajajaja.


Maybe, cut from the same cloth at any rate. Straight Talk is Morath. You can hear that tongue flicking and hissing with every keystroke. Read his posts in Morath's voice in your head. Same words, same inflections, same hogwash, same I know it all.  Morath, you aren't  fooling anyone; not here, not on the board, not in Austin.

DOL doo doo
DOL doo doo like.author.displayName 1 Like

Is Straight Talk related LBart?


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Foundation for Empowerment (FCE) released 3 papers:

1. Disruptive Change: Mike Miles and the Crisis In Dallas ISD, which has been prepared with consultation by education academics, extensive research, review of data and education literature, and meetings and interviews with people of Dallas holding varying and sometimes conflicting points of view;

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