Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ken Zornes: Resolution on testing deserves DISD vote

Dallas Morning News-Click Here

“Imposing relentless test preparation and boring memorization of facts to enhance test performance is doing little more than stealing the love of learning from our students and assuring that we fall short of our goals.”

The above quote is excerpted from a resolution protesting the overuse of high-stakes standardized tests in our public schools. Instead of being lukewarm about signing onto this resolution, as reported by The Dallas Morning News , Dallas ISD trustees should be hot to get all of their names on the document as soon as possible.

Forget the fact that Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott believes that Texas’ testing regimen has become “a perversion of its original intent,” or that more than 250 other school boards (nearly 30 of them in North Texas), the Texas Association of School Boards and the Texas Association of School Administrators have finally said they’ve had enough. It’s time to put real instruction back into the classroom.

Dallas ISD board members would be hard-pressed to find even a few — if any — students, parents, teachers or administrators who believe that the current overemphasis on testing is the right path toward preparing our students for post-secondary education and the workforce.

Board President Lew Blackburn suggests that the resolution may not meet legal standards and that he cannot support it as it is written. Nothing in the resolution supports breaking any laws, state or federal. It supports holding our public schools accountable for student performance and merely asks that the Texas Legislature re-examine the current accountability system and develop a system that is more efficient, easier to understand and provides a truer picture of a student’s academic achievement. Nowhere in the resolution does it advocate doing away with testing.

No one can argue that high-stakes standardized testing has played a major role in how we hold our students, teachers and administrators accountable for more than a decade and that we have seen some benefits. However, the misplaced emphasis on these tests has caused many excellent teachers to simply narrow their instruction to preparing students for tests at the expense of preparing them to become productive and responsible citizens.

Much more than they serve students and teachers, high-stakes tests serve the needs of legislators who wish to convince the public that they are holding our public school system accountable and are being good stewards of their tax dollars.

Blackburn is reluctant to place the resolution on the agenda for a vote at the April 26 board meeting, stating that if three trustees ask to have the item on the agenda, he will do so. The board president should assume the leadership role to which he was elected and place the item on the agenda, regardless of how many other trustees want it there.

Having it on the agenda will allow the trustees to find out what teachers, administrators and the public, including DISD parents, think of the resolution. Listening to constituents is never a bad idea.

To read the resolution, go to

Ken Zornes is the executive director of the Texas Business and Education Coalition and former DISD board president. He may be contacted at