Test-and-Punish: How the Texas Education Model Gave America Accountability Without Equity by John Kuhn

9. The Granddaddy of School Finance Cases

  • In 2012, six groups of plaintiffs brought suit against the State of Texas which included rich and poor districts. They claimed that the system was inadequately funded and that the state’s funding system was hopelessly broken. The judge found in favor of more than 600 school districts on all of their major claims and agreed that the state’s funding system neither adequately nor efficiently supported public schools as required by the state constitution.

10. House Bill 5: Anatomy of a Pushback

  • When the test-and-punish reforms were put in place over the years, educators were effectively discouraged from disputing irrational expectations that guaranteed failure for so many teachers and schools. In 2013, however, a bipartisan group of mothers and teachers in Texas banded together to find the way out of the brambles. Politicians had no choice but to listen. The first step was for the heads of the House and Senate education committees to recommend that the STAAR end-of-course test scores not affect a student’s course grade. It didn’t hurt that the superintendent of El Paso was imprisoned for a cheating scandal similar to the one that took place in Huston.
  • The state that gave us No Child Left Behind was quick to apply for a waver offered by the Obama administration even though all it did was move the target for 100% passing of math and English tests from 2014 to 2020. In 2013, most of the previous budget cuts were restored and funding for state testing was zeroed out. Poor schools were given a disproportionate amount of the increased funding. A great deal of opposition came in the guise of social media, which caused the effort to take hold in other states. Students were given more options regarding the programs they could pursue so not everyone would have to follow the same high-end academic program. Graduation tests were reduced from 15 to 5 and Person reps could no longer sit on state committees.
  • The most promising national move resulted in the creation of the Equity and Excellence Commission. It was empaneled to provide advice to the US secretary of education about disparities in educational opportunities. Their report titled For Each and Every Child called for equitable financing of school systems, improvement in teacher, administrator, and curricular quality, the expansion of high-quality early education opportunities, and efforts to mitigate the effects of poverty along with a greater accountability for results.
  • At the end John sees that the trend of offering accountability as a substitute for equitable treatment, justice, and fairness has hopefully outlived its usefulness. He hopes that test-and-punish reform continues to give way to diagnose-and-support reform. The sooner the better for America’s children.
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