Casualties of War

Parents who bought into the TAKS hype dealt blow at HISD meeting.

She also questioned moving ahead with Apollo when this year's starter program still isn't fully funded ($5 million will have to come out of the General Fund if HISD is unable to raise the rest of the money privately), as well as the district expanding this program at the same time it is talking about cutting teachers and other personnel next year to deal with a loss in state funds anticipated to be between $202 million and $348 million.

Galloway's amendment to put things on hold lost 5-4. She was joined by trustees Eastman, Juliet Stipeche and Michael Lunceford.

Then trustee Manuel Rodriguez tried to split the baby by offering an amendment that would start Apollo in six of the elementaries, with five more on hold till the district gets some more testing results in.

Many parents, teachers and students at Isaacs thought HISD made a mistake when it ­proposed making them an Apollo school.
Mandy Oaklander
Many parents, teachers and students at Isaacs thought HISD made a mistake when it ­proposed making them an Apollo school.

That one went down in a 6-3 vote after Grier stepped into a back room and got on the phone to Dr. Roland Fryer, the Harvard researcher with EdLabs who has been working with HISD on the Apollo project. Grier said Fryer told him halving the number of schools involved would render the experiment scientifically worthless. It needed to be all 11 or nothing.

In the end, Meyers, Marshall, Moore, Harris and Rodriguez voted to go ahead with the program. Meyers argued that it made no sense to wait to help the students at these schools, that there was a sense of urgency about getting them more resources.

"I am not going to support delaying something that's going to make a difference in the lives of kids.   We have children that are not reading on grade level, and that's an issue we're getting our arms around," Meyers said.

Not everyone who spoke from the floor at last Thursday's meeting was against Apollo. Malcolm Carter, an eighth grader at Key Middle School, said how much its academics had improved this year. Marilyn Cruz, principal at Tinsley Elementary, said she looks forward to Apollo.

But others wanted no part of it. Scarborough teacher Diana Diehl asked trustees to "redirect the money" away from them and to other needs such as fully funding full-day pre-K.

Parent Eva Hernandez, speaking through a translator, said, "Supposedly, Isaacs is a recognized school. Now they say the school needs help. Why did they say one thing and then another? I don't understand."

Around the room Hernandez and others appeared visibly deflated as the message was hammered home — HISD needs a higher goal than just passing TAKS. It needs excellence of a different, more rigorous nature to better provide for its students.

But these were the true believers, the ones who bought into what HISD had told them: that their schools and their children were something special. The ones who would come to school board meetings that went on forever, dragging their kids with them.

The fact that HISD is doing the right thing by battling its way to a higher standard didn't lessen the sting. Parents and teachers had been rightfully proud of their schools, their children's achievements.

Now it has been taken away. They have been rendered ordinary.

margaret.downing@houstonpress.com

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9 comments
Dr. Fill
Dr. Fill

I told my youngest kid the other day, TAKS and benchmark tests are designed for morons...hmm, I mean the slowest kids in her class. She has to do many times better than the passing grade to be considered a smart kid. Hopefully she gets the point.

Sarah
Sarah

While I feel bad for the schools being caught in the district's growing pains, I think it is wonderful news that the TAKS test is losing its power. The Stanford 9 is such a better assessment (as I recall)... and harder to "teach to." For the 2 years I taught in HISD during the ascent of NCLB (2001-2003), I was explicitly instructed to spend February-April "teaching TAKS..." If I recall correctly, my principal at the time told me that if the Northeast district superintendent or other sub-district administrators were to come to my classroom during that time, we had better be explicitly be teaching TAKS objectives.

Yet, as a thinking adult, I realized that even though my students did well on that exam, the Stanford was a better assessment of what they knew and how they were doing (and how I was doing).

I don't know the answer, but I'm pretty sure it's not home schooling or standardized tests. And I'm pretty sure it involves paying teachers more so that talented, intelligent people choose to teach rather than leave for more lucrative careers. I'm very glad that nurses make alot of money (aprox $70,000/year, I think), but teachers should make at least as much as nurses, if not more.

sickofteachingtothetest
sickofteachingtothetest

Parents- it's time for a national Keep Your Kids Home on Test Day movement. It would invalidate all those crappy statistics and then the millions of dollars wasted on Pearson, TEA administration/test salaries, etc. could be redirected to more valuable education projects.

Houston citizen
Houston citizen

This is the laziest piece of reporting I have ever seen about education. Comparing the TAKS and Stanford is like comparing apples and oranges. You should have made that clear to your readers.

Ms. Downing, go on to the TEA website and look at the released TAKS tests for the last 9 years. Take them. Do you think they are increasing or decreasing in rigor? (Let me give you a hint, they are increasing). Ask the surbuban school districts if they administer the Stanford test. (When they say no, ask why). In short, do your job. This is sloppy reporting.

Follow the money. Find out how much TEA pays Pearson to help compose the TAKS (and now the STAAR) tests. Find out how many salaries in TEA are directly tied to testing. Find out how much money HISD pays ETS for the Stanford test. Find out how many millions HISD spends on test prep books, software and consultants throughout the year.

Look for ties or kickbacks from testing companies to school boards around the state and nation. Ask how Jeb Bush is related to this story. I am just a regular teacher and I see all these dots. I don't understand why no media person has figured it out yet.

A Teacher
A Teacher

So if TAKS tests don't matter so much I guess I will stop preparing my students for it and will focus all of my attention on the Stanford. The school rating will go down but apparently the HISD Trustees don't care...

nativetexan
nativetexan

Can you spell H-O-M-E-S-C-H-O-O-L?And public educators have the nerve to criticize those who teach their own. Ya, right.

ash
ash

I remember taking the TAAS tests and the TAKS test came out when I was in high school. All the teachers ever did was teach the test. Thats what we focused on all year, that stupid test. I took the Stanford test to and it was much harder. I think they should do away with it and focus on what students really need to be taught. I'll give you a hint, *it's not the TAKS*

idjit
idjit

No Child Left Behind was conceived by the same people who deny evolution, and thought it was a good idea to invade Iraq. It is a vast Fantasyland inhabited by charlatans.

UziGal
UziGal

Home schooled kids who do well on standard tests (SAT and advanced subject matter SAT's such as chemistry) are aggressively recruited by elite universities.

 
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