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.”
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.