The STAAR Tests

Educate Seguin has two “planks”: in its 2016 platform that address Seguin ISD performance on state standardized tests, specifically, the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR). Those planks are:

      • By 2020, achieve a district-wide passing rate of 90% on 5th and 8th grade STAAR Tests
      • By 2020, reduce the achievement gap to 5% for Hispanic, African-American, and economically disadvantaged students

Why are these important? There is a great deal of anger and criticism from students, parents, teachers, and administrators about the use of standardized tests. Much of that anger and criticism is justified. It can be very easily argued that teaching has become automated and geared solely towards helping students pass these tests. The fact that this is an unintended consequence does not really address the problem. On the other hand, it is important that there be some way of objectively measuring what students are learning. We have seen that there can be great disparities in what a passing grade means in one school versus another. The argument for STAAR is that it increases accountability and ensures students are being effectively taught. Previous Educate Seguin blogs have addressed the poor performance of our district on the STAAR tests and the impact that has on our young people and our community. It is imperative that we turn this around. And we must not only improve our overall performance but also the performance of our most at-risk populations. That is the goal of this part of the platform

What will it take? Ironically, we believe it will require the district to pay LESS attention to the test. Effective teaching is critical. We must make sure all of our teachers have the tools, training, and skills to teach every student in their classrooms. We will never achieve the goals we strive for by “teaching to the test” or by teaching “test-taking” skills or by curtailing instruction in non-test subjects or by having student repeatedly take practice test all year long. Every single student in every single classroom must have an effective teacher with the resources required to teach. If we commit to doing that, the test results will, we believe, take care of themselve and the STAAR will resume its intended place-as an indicator of effectiveness rather than a goal in itself.

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Strategic Planning

This is the first of a series of articles on the Educate Seguin Platform for 2016.  There are eleven important “planks” in the Platform, the first of which is the development of a STRATEGIC PLAN for the district. The School Board should commit to working with the administration, faculty, staff and a “Blue Ribbon” Citizens Advisory Committee to develop a detailed long range plan by the end of the 2016-17 school year.  This new plan should have as its basis the 2012 vision Plan.

The Strategic Plan should list all the improvements that are necessary for Seguin I.S.D.to have a model educational program meeting and exceeding  all State Standards.   An estimate of the cost of each improvement should be included.  Priorities should be set considering what each improvement is going to accomplish to improve education in the District.  The Plan should also estimate income by year from all sources.  This should include an estimate, by year, of how much new income will come from increase in property values.  Current expenditures should be studied to determine where savings can be made to help finance the implementation  of the Plan.  Information should be included on how much a one cent tax increase would generate to help determine when and how much the tax rate may need to be increased.  Improvements should be included in all  areas of the District – educational program, physical facilities, teaching staff, administrative staff, support staff  to give  only a few examples.  The plans should be clear and in great detail.

There are some improvements that will be very expensive, such as pre-kindergarten, class-size reductions, and new programs.  These will require the type of detailed financing plan that is being recommended in the Platform.  The Plan will need to include plans and timing of Bond Elections and what improvements will be included in bond proposals..

This is the type of long  term strategic planning that is necessary to generate public support  and for Seguin I.S.D.  to become a first rate school district.  The School  Board should be committed to make this happen.

Harold Bogisch