Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Mailbag: ‘It is all junk!’

Austin school Superintendent Meria Carstarphen was part of a test-related skit in November 2011 (Austin American-Statesman photo by Ralph Barrera).
Austin school Superintendent Meria Carstarphen was part of a test-related skit in November 2011 (Austin American-Statesman photo by Ralph Barrera).

In April, we rated Mostly False Austin librarian Sara Stevenson’s claim that the Austin school district’s 2011-12 calendar shows 64 dates for state-mandated student testing.

The school calendar has about 34 separate state-related testing dates, not 64. Significantly, too, no students are taking tests on all 34 dates or any number of dates close to that.
   
Several readers thought we were snowed by the Austin school district.

Edited for length and style, their missives:

"Could you please follow up with the district spokeswoman who claims that the district does not develop practice versions" of the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness? "I am a... teacher."

Another: "Don't be fooled by (the district’s) lies when they say, ‘the district administration does not develop practice versions of those (state) exams.’ Fourth-grade students took five four-hour ‘benchmark’ tests in November. These tests are designed to mimic the new STAAR and ‘increase test-taking stamina.’ Results from these benchmark tests are then used to design ‘data-driven instruction,’ which is also more commonly known as teaching to the test. Fourth grade students took five more ‘middle-of-the-year’ tests in February, and these tests are also created by central office personnel using cut and paste methods whereby they create a new test, using recycled items from old (state) tests.

"These practice tests are remarkably time-consuming," this email continues. "They interfere with real classroom learning and teaching and force teachers to focus on meaningless test scores rather than look at authentic student work."

Also: "The district can put up a good story as to how they only have a certain amount of testing, it is all junk! Simple fact is at least 64 days out of 180 days are devoted to some kind of testing which puts a complete halt on any kind of academic learning or an environment allowing any type of normal learning."

Think we’ve been duped on a fact check? Tell us via Facebook or email at politifact@statesman.com. Thanks for reading and writing us.