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Texas Superintendent Slams Standardized Tests

PARIS, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – A Texas school superintendent is speaking out about standardized tests and saying what he believes a lot of parents feel.

Paul Jones, Superintendent of Paris schools, says he wanted to set the record straight about STAAR tests students took a few weeks ago, before the results were released.

Jones posted a letter to the district's website saying too much emphasis is placed on standardized testing and it's time someone said so.  Jones' letter called the STAAR "...punitive " and "one size fits all…" (Scroll below to read Jones entire letter.)

"These tests do not measure the quality of teaching and learning in the classroom," Jones told CBS 11's Robbie Owens.

"We're not shying away from accountability or testing students.… but, let's measure growth," said Jones. "If that student grew, the teacher did their job, the student did a great job. And that's what we're here to do."

The letter struck a chord with North Texas parents and many others. Jones said he has been fielding emails from across the country.

Parent Greg Wilson agrees with the superintendent. He has three students in Paris schools-including a third grader taking STAAR exams for the first time this year.

"It's detracting from them being able to work on other things and learn other things… they are being taught to the test," said Wilson. It's a lot of stress, especially for little kids, especially the third graders…a lot of pressure to do well."

Gene Acuna, a spokesperson for the Texas Education Agency, defended the state's testing tools in the following written statement.

"The tests are aligned to the curriculum, and if you teach the curriculum, you don't need to worry about the results."

However, Jones insists the tests put too much pressure on the parents and the kids.

"You hear stories of kids throwing up on the test booklet and getting sick, not wanting to come to school… and that's not what it's about."

In the last legislative session, Texas lawmakers reduced the number of end of course exams from 15 to five. Jones says that is a step in the right direction.

STAAR test results for grades three thru eight should be released on Wednesday. More results will be released next month. The results will be factored into school district rankings, which will be released in August.

Scroll below to read the full text of Superintendent Jones' letter:

"Dear Parents and Friends of PISD,

Next week, you will be receiving your child's STAAR/TAKS results for the 2013-2014 school year. I'm writing this letter on behalf of PISD administrators, teachers, staff, and board members. These results should be considered as one of many instruments used to measure your child's growth, not the end-all of your child's learning for the year. These assessments do not reflect the quality of teaching or learning in our classrooms. Instead, they reflect a punitive; one size fits all test-driven system. Our students are much more than a once-a-year pencil and bubble sheet test. Your child means immeasurably more than just a number generated in Austin. There is no test that can assess all of what makes each child unique. The state mandated assessments are used by the state to score and rank our campuses and our district, however, this is not the only assessment we use for Paris ISD students. We have higher standards. Your child's achievements must be measured by a multitude of accomplishments throughout the year. Your individual child's academic growth is what is important, and we assess your child's growth from the start of the school year to the end of the school year. In contrast, your child is assessed by the state with a criterion-referenced test (STAAR), which assesses how your child performs on a single day and uses those results to compare your child to a predetermined standard set by bureaucrats in Austin and a testing company headquartered in London, England. We all know students do not master skills at the same rate; each individual child has their strengths and weaknesses. This single test cannot measure what we know about your child. Many of our students play sports, play musical instruments, dance, sing, speak multiple languages, write and perform poetry or songs, and create amazing works of art. We have students working multiple jobs at night to help support their family. Many of our students are the main caregivers for younger siblings late into the evening hours. Our classrooms are reflective of a multi-faceted student involved in a wide variety of activities, both academic and extra-curricular. It is not just drill and kill for one test.

Although the data from this assessment will help us know when to offer enrichment or intervention, we will use the state assessment for the purpose the original assessment system was created--a diagnostic tool for identifying areas of concern as well as strengths. Individual student data will be aligned with local assessment data to develop educational plans that ensure continued progress for our students. Your child's growth and love of learning are our main goals at PISD. Unfortunately, bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. and Austin have designed a one-size-fits-all assessment system that doesn't necessarily reflect your individual child's growth and achievements. Our students, not the state assessment, will be our main focus and top priority. Our instructional goals are to prepare each child to be college and/or career ready for the 21st Century.

So, yes, we live in a time when standardized test results are a reality. However, let's not let the STAAR test overshadow what is truly important--each individual child. Let us not forget to celebrate the vast and numerous accomplishments and successes the students of PISD have achieved this school year. It has been a great one!

Paul Jones,
Superintendent Paris Independent School District"


(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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