Texas no child left behind waiver; big confusion in a big state

The debacle that is the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program continues to plague the exact students it was designed to help. SEE ALSO:…
Texas no child left behind waiver; big confusion in a big state

Texas No Child Left Behind waiver. (Shutterstock)

The debacle that is the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program continues to plague the exact students it was designed to help.

SEE ALSO: No Child Left Behind—Where are we 11 years later?

In Texas, about the only thing seemingly everyone can agree upon regarding a new teacher evaluation system are it’s flaw. The teacher evaluation system is required by the Dept. of Education to secure a NCLB waiver to ensure the Lone Star State doesn’t lose out on substantial funding.

Recently the Texas Education Agency announced details of a new teacher evaluation and support system – replacing the Professional Development and Appraisal System (PDAS) that’s been in place since 1997 – will be piloted in roughly 70 school districts and charters in the 2014-2015 school year.

Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams said, “The Teacher Evaluation and Support System is designed to be a more effective evaluative tool to support the most important adult in Texas education – the teacher at the front of every child’s classroom.”

student growth

Teacher evaluation grades will be tied to a student growth. (Shutterstock)

The key is 20 percent of the teacher evaluation grade will be tied to a student growth measure at the individual teacher level that will include a value-added score based on student growth as measured by state assessments.

Intercultural Development Research Association Educational Associate Hector Bojorquez told VOXXI the state is still figuring out the value-added formula.

“Nobody likes it and there are good reasons,” Bojorquez said. “We already have this very high-stakes regime, the merits are questionable as it is. While we believe at IDRA that there should always be accountability, the high-stakes nature of the test itself has always been problematic, particularly with Latino and disadvantaged students.

“There is a tendency for districts to want to over-teach to the test. And that’s been very problematic. It narrows what accountability looks like to just the test. So if you look at districts that are doing well on a particular test regime, but then you look at the outcome as far as how many kids in that school district are going to college and are prepared to go to college or even doing on the ACT/SAT, that difference is huge.”

Therein lies the rub in Texas, where in layman’s terms a conundrum of bureaucracy is taking place. Basically, low-income students being over-taught with test preparation are having their education shortchanged so the state can secure federal funds that target those same disadvantaged kids studying to pass a test that doesn’t get them any closer to college attainment. Confused? Just imagine what the Latino students and families are going through.

“That’s in a nutshell the problem, and of course it doesn’t make sense,” Bojorquez said. “We’re even more concerned that eventually it will be tied to teacher incentives. It feels like a slippery slope towards that. It’s not that teachers don’t have any agency in this and somehow they can’t make decisions for themselves as far as how they’re going to teach things, but when you have your entire school system telling you have to perform in such a way, what are you going to do? There’s undue pressures on the teachers to do these things, which is then going to harm the kids.”

Bojorquez added that he’s finding more and more Latino parents getting increasingly frustrated with the testing issue. Furthermore, he said that by increasing the stakes in this way the state is almost guaranteeing more mediocre results because accountability will be tied to performance on a test and not on college readiness and preparation.

“One of the things Latino parents should be concerned with is that this isn’t getting them the results they want to begin with,” Bojorquez said. “They want their kids to go to college and to succeed and be career ready. And testing preparation is not what’s getting them there.

“This is very high on parents’ agendas. They’re really worried their kids won’t be college prepared, and we’re talking first-generation immigrant parents. That’s why they came here. They didn’t come for their kids not to be educated.”

SEE ALSO: Latino students ‘left behind’ in Washington state