Teachers forced to time student bathroom breaks during STAAR

POST UPDATE:

In response to this post, many have responded that the rationale behind the required test time tracking is from the new law passed last session by the Texas Legislature, HB 743, which does a number of things to limit the amount of standardized testing our children receive. Here is an excerpt of that new law and an explanation of why the criticism still stands.

(a-12) An assessment instrument adopted or developed under Subsection (a) must be designed so that:

(1) if administered to students in grades three through five, 85 percent of students will be able to complete the assessment instrument within 120 minutes; and

(2) if administered to students in grades six through eight, 85 percent of students will be able to complete the assessment instrument within 180 minutes.

It doesn’t take a legal scholar to determine the intent of this law. The TEA knows that the testing window for these exams is far longer than the law allows, and whether a student has completed the assessment or not, the student is required to sit at his/her desk for the entire administration.

Furthermore, the TEA’s assertion that it needs this new data to determine how much to shorten the tests is not only circumventing the intention of the law, it is also dishonest. The TEA collected this data via sampling of tens of thousands of test takers last year and knows exactly how long students are spending on these assessments. See the graphic below made available by a public information request by Scott Placek.

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Collecting additional behavioral data of the test taker without explanation or consent (much less legal authority to do so) is unethical and makes the case for opting out that much stronger.

Another aspect of HB 743 that TEA is choosing to ignore…

(a-11) Before an assessment instrument adopted or developed under Subsection (a) may be administered under that subsection, the assessment instrument must, on the basis of empirical evidence, be determined to be valid and reliable by an entity that is independent of the agency and of any other entity that developed the assessment instrument.

I think our state’s education agency not following the law while spending hundreds of millions of dollars on standardized testing is a reasonable thing about which to “gripe” (as some critics have described). As do tens of thousands of other parents around the state and hundreds of thousands around the country that are opting out. If you do, join the movement and OPT OUT NOW.

>>> Original Post >>>

While Ben and I have been advocating against the use of high stakes testing in Houston ISD for the last year or so, we have spoken with many parents who truly do not grasp how big this monster has become.

A common question we hear is: “We took tests when we were kids—what’s the big deal?”

For answers to that question, see here, here and here.

bathroombreak3However, the Texas Education Agency created yet another example of testing mania this year by establishing new requirements for “Additional Student Data Collection” for administrators of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR). You can download STAAR administration procedures for Grades 3-5 here, for Grades 6-8 here, and for high school here.

 

For parents who are unaware, this manual is given to all teachers and other school personnel who are administering the STAAR test to your children. Parents should read it-it is a glimpse into the enormous pressure under which are educators are placed as it details all the various ways an educator can put their teaching certificate in jeopardy related to the STAAR test. Oh, and the one for administering the test to 3rd-5th graders? It’s 108 pages. 108 pages to explain to teachers how to administer this test!bathroombreak2
If you are a parent, I think you would be especially interested to know Appendix D of this year’s 3rd-5th grade manual (page 12 of manual for grades 6-8) explains to educators new requirements this year: recording a student’s Total Testing Time and Total Break Time.
The first requirement, making a record of how long it takes the student to complete the test doesn’t get me too fired up. I DO think these tests are WAY longer than is developmentally appropriate, and longer than some tests adults take for professional licensure, so maybe (?) this data collection can go to support this. Although I don’t really believe TEA needs to know these things on an individual student level.

bathroombreak1Anyway, it’s the second requirement that makes me very upset as a parent. The second requirement mandates that teachers keep track of all breaks a student takes and then records the total amount of break time your child took during the test. This means that every time your child goes to the bathroom, or takes a movement break, or in some schools puts their head down on a desk, the teacher is watching and tracking. Initially, this may sound innocuous, but think about the intrusiveness of this data collection–the state of Texas now demands to know when your daughter goes to the bathroom during the STAAR test?!?

As a Licensed Specialist in School Psychology I give all kinds of assessments to children, and I would never be allowed to collect that level of data on a student without parental consent. This is highly sensitive data. TEA has not offered the public any explanation of its use. Will it be used to identify cheating (seems impossible given the method they are using) or to extrapolate who might have test anxiety? The truth is, we don’t know. We don’t know why TEA would collect this kind of data on OUR children. In my opinion, this is a HUGE govermental overreach into our children’s privacy and being done so without explanation or consent.

So, when people ask me what’s the big deal with the test? How is it different than what we took when we were kids? This is the difference. No one was tracking how much time you were spending in the bathroom or with your head down on the desk. Your teachers weren’t threatened with losing their teaching certificate if they spoke about the content of the test. Hell, they weren’t threatened with losing their jobs if your test scores were low. All of those things are differences and examples of the nightmare this testing mania has become.

We have to ask ourselves why has this happened? It has happened because we have put SO much emphasis on the test. It is the SINGLE measure whereby we judge students, teachers, principals, schools and school districts. No wonder we are doing crazy things like timing bathroom breaks. By putting this kind of pressure on one day of the school year, we have lost sight of true education.

If you find it it as appalling as I do that the Texas Education Agency wants to track when your child takes each bathroom break during a week of testing, there is an easy solution. Withdraw your consent. Withdraw your consent from timed bathroom breaks. From teachers monitoring lunch table conversation for cheating. From corporations monitoring your child’s twitter account for discussion of the test. From students, teachers and principals being punished for low test scores that have little to do with what takes place in the classroom. OPT OUT of the system. There’s strength in numbers. Let’s use it.

 

7 thoughts on “Teachers forced to time student bathroom breaks during STAAR

  1. I can tell you exactly why TEA is doing this. This past year the Texas Legislature passed a law that STAAR tests must be such a length that 85% of students (3rd – 5th grade) can complete each test in two hours (not counting students with extended time). The goal of the law was to force the TEA to reduce the number of test questions. The law went into effect in September 2015. TEA complained that they would not have enough time to shorten the test this year before Spring testing dates. The Texas Legislature responded by allowing them to eliminate the field test questions (5-8 questions per test) this year but requires them to eliminate more questions for Spring 2017. TEA has decided it is too difficult to choose which areas to eliminate so they are out to prove that if you subtract all the time students are not actively testing (resting their heads, going to the bathroom, stretching) from the start time to the stop time for each student that the current STAAR tests meet the legislature’s 85% completion in two hours mandate. This allows TEA to do nothing and still comply with the law.

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  2. Do you really not know why? Did you not connect the dots between the Legislature’s mandate to shorten testing time and the TEA’s need to learn, validate, and likely justify to the legislature whether they’ve complied? And I spoke with Student Assessment Services. Nobody at TEA expects that teachers lose their minds tracking every time a student lays his or head on the desk for a moment. There are very specific guidelines for which “breaks” need to be tracked in order to get a more definitive idea of HOW LONG it takes a child to complete the test. Which is what all of the complaining watchdog parents were complaining so loudly about in the first place which brought all of this about. Law of unintended consequences, bro. Now go find something important to gripe about instead being a pot-stirrer. Parents have real things to worry about.

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  3. While I agree completely with your stance that this practice is absurd, we actually do know some reason why the state needs this information. During the last legislative session, TEA was charged with collecting data on how long students test. Even still, collecting information about break times, etc. is taking this too far. Especially since, we as educators, have to include these breaks in testing time. I am assuming that they will factor out the total break times from total testing times to get a more precise picture of actual amount of time on testing. This is just one more ridiculous practice that we face as educators in Texas by administering this state assessment.

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  4. Of course we’re aware of HB 743. As some have noted, many of us were a part of advocating for some of its regulations. Applicable excerpts from that law here…

    (a-12) An assessment instrument adopted or developed under
    Subsection (a) must be designed so that:
    (1) if administered to students in grades three
    through five, 85 percent of students will be able to complete the
    assessment instrument within 120 minutes; and
    (2) if administered to students in grades six through
    eight, 85 percent of students will be able to complete the
    assessment instrument within 180 minutes.

    It doesn’t take a legal scholar to determine the intent of this law. The TEA knows that the testing window for these exams is far longer than the law allows, and whether a student has completed the assessment or not, the student is required to sit at his/her desk for the entire administration. Collecting additional behavioral data of the test taker without explanation or consent (much less legal authority to do so) is unethical and makes the case for opting out that much stronger.

    Another aspect of HB 743 that TEA is choosing to ignore…

    (a-11) Before an assessment instrument adopted or developed
    under Subsection (a) may be administered under that subsection, the
    assessment instrument must, on the basis of empirical evidence, be
    determined to be valid and reliable by an entity that is independent
    of the agency and of any other entity that developed the assessment
    instrument.

    I think our state’s education agency not following the law while spending hundreds of millions of dollars on standardized testing is a reasonable thing to “gripe” about. As do tens of thousands of other parents around the state and hundreds of thousands around the country. If you don’t agree, move along. If you do, join the movement and OPT OUT NOW.

    Like

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