College Readiness and Test Fatigue

College Readiness and Test Fatigue

Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund Paredes, in an appearance before the State Board of Education, on July 20, told the panel that the board isn't doing enough to prepare students for college. 

Board members, whose duties include developing graduation requirements, returned the criticism, accusing Texas universities of not adequately training K-12 teachers, according to Kiah Collier, in the Texas Tribune

Commissioner Paredes came to the meeting "armed with studies and statistics showing Texas lags behind other states in key areas including percentage of young adults with postsecondary credentials and high schoolers' performance on college entrance exams." He delivered a similar message to legislators earlier this year, the article reports. 

The board of education is elected, as are representatives and senators. The higher education commissioner is appointed by the Coordinating Board, which is appointed by the governor. Lots of interaction with the public is going on. It's clear that parents in particular are weary—and wary—of standardized tests, especially high stakes exams that prevent the advancement or graduation of their kids. When policy makers attend local meetings, they hear horror stories. 

An interesting exchange:

"I worry about people's fear of rigor and competitiveness," he [Dr. Paredes] said in an interview after his presentation.

Board member Thomas Ratliff described Paredes' contention as a "hard to swallow" minority view.

"I almost fell out of my chair when you said Texas tests aren’t strong enough," the Mount Pleasant Republican told Paredes.

Some indicators of educational success are improving, according to one board member's comment in the piece. This individual may refer to a dramatic decline in the high school dropout rate in Texas lately. But perhaps this only underscores a basic point that an incredible number of high school graduates are coming to college woefully unprepared, and this stubborn fact persists after decades of consternation. 

This issue is a conundrum with a dark component. Visit with public school teachers and you will hear (off the record) accounts of enormous pressure to pass students to the next level, whether they perform accordingly or not. We should have more open discussion of this phenomenon. It might be a start toward improvement. 

We keep seeking a standardized examination that reports only what we want to hear.