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.


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golden rule
golden rule

I'm a student at golden rule charter school I hate having to do a star test and if I don't pass math or reading I will flunk I always feel like its the end of the world for me


Private school, homeschooled and charter school students are forbidden from taking the STAAR test. They are only allowed to purchase the TAKS test


I very much agree on what you said In this article.it isn't fair that kids have a chance to enjoy school without the stress of having to pass the staar test. if the don't have it then we should have it either . it should be equal for both type of schools . in my opinion, we shouldn't even have the staar test rather I figure it should be based on your grades form school.


@ 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.


@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


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.

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

"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

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.

Persona non grata
Persona non grata

"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....

Disrupted DISD
Disrupted DISD

@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

@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.  

Exceeds and Proud
Exceeds and Proud

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?

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.

Tovar Fan
Tovar Fan

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.

E Kim Selim
E Kim Selim


Bill McKenzie recently touted a new teacher evaluation system proposed by Villalba in the Texas House.


I had a look at it and it did not seem bad. Then I got paranoid and thought it looked too much like FMM in disguise. Perhaps the best way to stop this Focal Point train wreck is to have teachers define the evaluation system and make it the law of the land.

DOL doo doo
DOL doo doo

The Patterson Education Association reports of scores getting worse is certainly no BS. They got a big dose of what Dallas ISD is getting right now. Patterson said they chose “the single least selected model in the state which is Mike Miles Focal Point.” This was published just last January of 2013.

So BOT-1, Cabinet members, Rawlings, McKenzie and other Miles supporters, we know you have seen this. The question is, why continue to be in DENIAL?

Beer in Hand
Beer in Hand


Need I say more. Follow the money, honey.

Persona non grata
Persona non grata

Where are the FMM supporters? No, really! Where are they?

Pick any topic slightly more controversial than dryer lint and the battle lines quickly form:

Is Romo good or bad for the Cowboys? How about that 1st Baptist campus now? Who's to blame for the glare of the new condo on the sculpture center? Is the DMN biased? Is the new bridge over the Trinity a work of art or an eyesore? Will the new draft picks help the Cowboys? For all of these and hundreds more, there are vocal opponents/proponents everywhere.

But for something as important as the leader of DISD, the sound of supporters for FMM is: [silence...occasional cricket chirp in the vast darkness].

This is Dallas! "Them thar's fightin' words!" is as alive as ever on almost any topic except....

Really! Where's the vociferous pushback from the FMM loyalists? Honestly, I'm laying down my love of satire here! Does anyone have some insight on how this lopsided argument is possible? There's a silent majority of supporters? Is that possible?

My brain hurts...


Good old Focal Point whiz bang--taking other districts and federal taxpayers to the cleaners. Was Miles or his corrupt sister in charge of this disaster:

SP.E.A.KING Out…What? Scores got worse? HOW is that possible? Hmmm. Let me count 

the ways. The District was forced to take on a new initiative for these evaluations, and chose the single least 

selected model in the State --- Mike Miles “Focal Point”. You’ll remember his mantra “How can schools have 

outstanding teachers with failing scores?” So, the District took on a new evaluation system based on his mantra 

that clearly smacks of negativism and “gotcha” for educators. Staff members, without a new contract for a third 

year, look at this “model” and fear they will never see a salary increase based upon the criteria set by the State.

The State has forced innumerable new positions on the District that we cannot afford; Data Manager, Data Leaders, 

Intervention Specialists, Response to Intervention Teacher, Math Leaders, Literacy Leaders, Climate & Culture 

Teachers just to name a few. The staff members who fill these positions are either plucked from existing positions 

or a brought in new, but the positions are in the minds of the great thinkers. In the meantime, we are told that 

there are still substitutes serving as teachers in classrooms, classrooms, by the way, that are part of the ongoing 

restructuring pandemic that creates disarray and confusion in Paterson schools where stability is needed. School 

# 6 has been reorganized three of four years in a row. Need we say more and yet those people will be looked 

upon as the reasons for lower scores. Insanity has been defined as the performing of the same things over and 

over and expecting different outcomes. OR maybe it’s just trying to make the schools so bad that they will be sold 

off to the highest political bidder.

Additionally, the District has this year hired “Replacement Teachers”, people who, by their title, cannot achieve 

tenure and whose years in position don’t count. In one case, the “teacher” was out on leave for three years … no 

permanent staff members hired, just Replacement Teachers hoping, that at some point, they can become Regular 

teachers and gain seniority.

The kids are ignored as part of the problem. No, not that way, but in terms of the skyrocketing transiency rates. 

Students moving 2, or 3, or 4 times a year cannot help the fact that they move, but they cannot be expected to be 

as successful as if they were in one school for the entire year.

And we haven’t even begun to mention DOL’s, or Objectives aligned with the DOL’s, or multiple testing, and 

grading, and recording of the grades that take hours away from actual instruction. Or how about the 

Innovation Zone whose Director disappeared from Paterson only to turn up in Englewood. Or how about the 

discussions about eliminating textbooks, or not allowing kids to take their books home? There’s a lot of problems 

that create lower test scores in Paterson. Most of the are either ignored by the State, created by the State or 

“encouraged” by the State. It’s pathetic, but there must not be an over-reaction here. We need some of our new 

Data Leaders to analyze these scores, then address what are the real problems that need to be addressed.



Bill McKenzie.....there are no words for this mindless hack.  There is no excuse for the voting public to not go to the polls and vote out the 3 board members who are up for re-election .....out of office and too bad they can't be voted out of town. 

We are some of the parents mentioned in the above article.....fortunate enough to be able to send our son to a private school.  We lived in one of the burbs but the schools there weren't much different from DISD.  Our son struggled with learning differences and I doubt if he would have had the proper help from the district we were in if we hadn't moved him.

I feel for those little kiddos who will never know how much fun school can and should be, the fact they will never have fond memories to look back on. 

NCLB is the worst thing that has ever happened to public education.  The intent was good I think but the reality is far far different.  This national law needs to be repealed......period. 


What other profession:

*allows journalists to blog about diagnostic tools as if they are experts in the field

*allows politicians to set cut rates and success rates on high stakes tests that are used to retain kids and fire teachers and principals

*allows a vendor with ties to a hack politician to take over educational policy decisions on a national scale?

*uses ONE test to determine success or failure instead of a battery of tests given by highly trained professionals?

The research on retention of students in elementary grades is substantial and points that retention should be done with careful deliberation because of the emotional damage to the child.

Does McKinsey have a clue that the ITBS, a nationally known test, is normed on the fact the around 39% of students won't be on grade level in reading and math? Would he assume to know what should be the educational plans for these students since he has no credentials or training in pedagogy or educational measurement or diagnosis?

Why are policy decisions being made by low life hacks instead of university professors with decades of peer reviewed research in these areas?

Retention should be made after careful deliberation and documentation from several sources. One day of testing from a vendor who has never established credentials shouldn't count for much.

These tests were originally designed to measure districts and schools, not individual children or teachers.

This in indeed a perversion and those who elevate themselves to use these tests as decision points without input from professionals need to be called out for what they are---perverts.

Persona non grata
Persona non grata

By word and deed, FMM and the BOT (8-1) have "demonstrated" (ICK!) that they see two numbers on the forehead of every DISD student: a test score and a dollar amount (private profit potential). Our children are merely units and their teachers day labor on an assembly line.

Advocate for Teachers
Advocate for Teachers

Thank you A. A. I am sure Mckenzie is not the only one around that has children in private schools. Check out the multimillionaire cabinet. Their children are not enrolled in Dallas ISD schools either.


  1. […] feel punished as they are pulled from electives to be placed in remedial classes geared toward passing the state assessments. Sometimes they are […]

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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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