This is an update to the 500+ supporters that have signed our petition to End Over Testing in Houston ISD. Originally posted here.
While we’ve ended our first week of the petition with an amazing amount of support, our trustees and superintendent have chosen to either ignore or respond with confusion and contempt.
Dr. Grier was tweeting sports scores during the public testimony at last week’s board meeting after parents and teachers waited five hours to speak just 60 seconds on the topic of over testing.
The school board has a workshop with district staff this week on the topic of Testing and Accountability, and even though our petition has received a lot of attention, trustees have yet to invite the public to provide input.
Here’s an example of dialogue with District I Trustee Anna Eastman on the Community Voices for Public Education Facebook page…
Anna Milliken Eastman: “Thanks for [the petition]. Could you all please explain your stats? I’ve shown it to the folks who write the assessments (who also, BTW, want them to be optional and tailored to campuses-your road block is the Schools Office). We don’t see where you get that every school week has, at least, an entire day taken up by a DLA/snapshot, nor do we understand the one out of every seven morning hours stat.”
Ben Becker: “Good morning, Anna! The statistic isn’t a weekly figure but says that 25% of (or 1 out of every 4) full school days in the year had a test. All the numbers, including the 1 in 7 morning instructional hours is further explained in the attached infographic I’ve created to break down a 5th grade experience in HISD this year. Sources are a couple of testing calendars on HISD’s site and answers to parent inquiries with teachers and principals about time allotments.
Anna Milliken Eastman: “Thank you.”
Ben Becker: “Ms. Eastman, This morning, in response to our petition being posted in this forum, you asked for factual clarifications and then stated that our roadblock is in the Schools Office. But my question, the question of all the people who have signed this petition, is are you a roadblock?
Will you put forward a policy from the board to end this intrusive cadence of snapshots and DLAs and limit standardized tests to one or two a year for the purposes you’ve recently espoused?
Your Chronicle op-ed on March 3 stated: ‘We need consistent, annual, objective data across schools and classrooms based on an agreed-upon set of goals…’ This petition specifically calls for that.
Furthermore, in the same piece, you invited folks to ‘demand local districts prohibit days wasted with practice tests and lockdowns for kids in untested subjects who ultimately miss out on valuable instruction time.’ This is exactly what we’re asking for.
So where do you stand? Are you for 5th graders next year taking a district-wide standardized assessment on 25% of their school days or are you for a reasonable policy of annual assessments to monitor school and classroom performance?
Please consider that the board has an opportunity to set new policy here. I don’t believe you or the other trustees have ever explicitly voted for this testing schedule but have trusted the superintendent to do what’s best. This trust has failed. We ask that this issue not be passed off to a corner of the HISD bureaucracy. This is an opportunity to make new policy, protect our children, and to exercise oversight of the district’s CEO. This is what we elected you and your fellow trustees to do.
Anna Milliken Eastman: “Ben, I plan to host a meeting in June after school is out and after we’ve determined our budget. I am not for fifth graders spending 25% of their time taking DLAs, but am skeptical that they actually do. I’d still appreciate an explanation of your stats. The snapshot of the testing schedule with overlaid with percentages doesn’t do that. Right now discussions are around making district support through snapshots optional for schools and I’m not sure we need policy to determine that or an agreement from admin. Thanks for keeping this fresh in my mind when I’ve got many other balls in the air.”
If the above actions or lack there of cause you concern. Please consider emailing your trustee and demand a special public hearing on the matter, so that district staff and the school board can hear everyone’s concerns before setting next year’s testing calendar.
firstname.lastname@example.org | District I Trustee, Anna Eastman
email@example.com | President & District II Trustee, Rhonda Skillern-Jones
firstname.lastname@example.org | District III Trustee, Manuel Rodriguez, Jr.
email@example.com | District IV Trustee, Paula M. Harris
firstname.lastname@example.org | District V Trustee, Michael L. Lunceford
email@example.com | District VI Trustee, Greg Meyers
firstname.lastname@example.org | District VII Trustee, Harvin C. Moore
email@example.com | District VIII Trustee, Juliet K. Stipeche
firstname.lastname@example.org | District IX Trustee, Wanda Adams
Thanks again for everyone’s support. I look forward to inviting you all to an HISD town hall meeting where your voices can be heard in person soon.