Projection measure for tests to be reviewed
Passing those expected to catch up later draws rebuke from lawmaker
Facing stinging criticism, the Texas Education Agency may retool or eliminate the practice of counting as passing students who fail state-mandated tests but who are expected to pass in later years.
The Texas Projection Measure was first used last year and gives schools credit under the Texas and federal academic accountability systems for students who don’t pass the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills but are expected to do so within three years.
In a letter sent Thursday to district administrators throughout the state, Education Commissioner Robert Scott said that he will review the measure because students’ and educators’ “hard work is being overshadowed by criticism of the use of TPM for state accountability purposes.”
Scott could not be reached for comment Friday. In the letter, he asked for feedback on several options, including the suspension of the measurement, continued use of the measurement for districts that choose to and modification of the measurement’s calculation.
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Reached by phone Friday, state Rep. Scott Hochberg, chairman of an appropriations subcommittee overseeing the education budget, called Scott’s proposals “lipstick on a pig.”
“You don’t make an invalid measure valid by doing less of it. I think we should start from scratch and develop a real measure of the progress students make in schools,” said Hochberg, a Houston Democrat. “That’s what this is supposed to be, but it never measured progress.”
Test performance for 2010 improved in every subject for every student group, agency officials said. Hochberg was among those at a hearing last week who questioned whether the measure is providing an overly sunny picture of school performance.
Of 74 school districts statewide that were newly rated exemplary last year, 73 of them were so rated under the state accountability system because the projection measure lifted their passing rates.
In the Austin school district, eight schools were rated academically unacceptable last year, but 11 would have received the ranking without the projection measure.
Based on this year’s preliminary data, Austin officials estimate that with the measure in place, only Eastside Memorial Green Tech High will be deemed academically unacceptable, the state’s lowest rating, when official results are announced later this month. However, without the measure, officials said four additional schools probably would receive the academically unacceptable rating: Eastside Memorial Global Tech High School and Garcia, Mendez and Burnet middle schools.
Any changes to the projection measurement would not affect the 2010 ratings.
Hochberg has cited an example using the measure in which a fourth-grader who earned a zero on the writing test could count as passing if he or she had barely passing scores on the math and reading tests.
“I think it really indicates a problem with decision-making at the agency, because it looks like we’re right back at tossing out options — none of which have been tested for validity — and saying, ‘Let’s just pick one from the list,’ ” Hochberg said. “I don’t have anything against asking administrators for input, obviously, but we’ve clearly established that the TPM is not a measurement for growth.”
Scott’s letter also details the new statewide achievement test, called the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, which will replace the 7-year-old TAKS in the 2011-12 school year. The new tests will start counting toward campus ratings in 2012-13.
The new tests will contain more testing items; 12 end-of-course exams will replace current high school tests; and in third through eighth grades, the STAAR will be linked to readiness expectations for the Algebra II and English III end-of-course assessments.
In the letter, Scott said, “TEA will evaluate all options available for computing growth or the degree to which a student is on track to succeed in a subsequent grade or course as part of the development of the new STAAR assessment program.
“Options for how the student progress measure developed for STAAR will be used in the new accountability system will be considered as part of the accountability development process,” Scott said.
Hochberg criticized Scott for not pledging that the state won’t use the measure in the federal academic accountability system and for not having “conceded that the TPM doesn’t do what it says it does.”
“I’m still not really sure they get it,” Hochberg said.
Robert Scott Education chief is asking for feedback.