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Editorial: Texas' student testing system amounts to a lot of nothing

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Early results are in from the state’s annual testing of students, which supposedly tells us how well our public schools are doing their job.

Those numbers change a bit from year to year. Longview ISD, like every school district, annually gets better in some areas and worse in others. The results lead school officials to say they are happy with the positive areas and will work harder on the negative ones.

All in all, though, it amounts to a big bag of nothing.

Which might be fine if millions of tax dollars weren’t being spent every year just to administer the test, or if untold hours weren’t being spent inside the classroom with teachers trying to aim lessons toward better test scores instead of better students.

And that’s not to mention all the hours spent in meetings of school employees — top to bottom — discussing testing strategies to improve test scores instead of spending that time working on plans to actually better educate students.

But long ago it became politically correct in Texas to suffer through this testing nonsense and it is now federal policy. This was not engendered by Democrats or Republicans but both, making them equally responsible for fouling the system.

We’ve seen zero evidence, especially at the local level, that the testing has done much of anything to improve schools or the educations they provide, certainly not beyond what might have happened had the government just left the districts alone to administer education.

Yet districts are punished when the test scores are low and, more personally, individuals lose jobs and get moved when the results don’t match what the state wants. Others get undeservedly lucky and promoted based on improving results, though they may have had nothing to do with them.

The student testing system is not a good marker for how well a school district is performing and it seems as if this experiment has been going on long enough for all of us to realize that.

Now all we need is the political gumption to change the system. Here’s one idea: It doesn’t immediately have to be replaced with anything. This is a shocking proposition, we know, but it just might work to allow teachers to teach.

We are not suggesting doing away with curriculum requirements — though some changes might be in order — just giving local districts more flexibility on how they teach the knowledge most of us believe is important.

This will be a difficult task for the Legislature but it is probably worth more effort than deciding which next new way Texans will be allowed to carry guns, or who uses which bathroom where.

One final peeve with the testing system and it is minor but symbolic. If we’re going to have an exam like this, couldn’t we at least devise an acronym that spells a word correctly? It seems a bad message each year for students to take the STAAR test.

We can do better than this.

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Today's Bible verse

“I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.”

Luke 15:7

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