In an effort to understand why schools are so unruly and teachers are getting assaulted let’s go back in time to where it began. This prospective will be mostly from Texas since I lived through it in Texas.
The Texas assessment program began when the 66th Texas Legislature enacted a law requiring basic skills competencies in mathematics, reading, and writing for grades 3, 5, and 9th.
As required by statute, Texas assessed minimum skills in mathematics, reading, and writing with the Texas Assessment of Basic Skills (TABS) tests.
It began with the release of the report “A Nation at Risk” report. It basically said schools are failing and not being held accountable.
July 13, 1984
Texas passes HB 72
Teachers were required to take a basic reading, writing and math tests.
The first introduction of “No Pass, No Play”
Administrators were told they could no longer walk the turds to the door and send them on their way.
1986- TEAMS TEST
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) implemented the Texas Educational Assessment of Minimum Skills (TEAMS) examinations. TEAMS was the first statewide assessment that students were required to pass to be eligible to receive a high school diploma.
1990- TAAS TEST
The implementation of another criterion-referenced testing program, the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS), shifted the focus of assessment from minimum skills to academic skills. The TAAS reading, writing, and mathematics tests were administered in the fall to students in grades 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11. Spanish versions of the grade 3 tests were administered to eligible English language learners (ELLs).
There were many adjustments and refinements to the TAAS Tests.
2002- NCLB (No Child Left Behind)
Passing and implementation of NCLB at the federal level. It imposed more regulatory restraints on schools across the country.
This was the brain child of George W. Bush, former Governor of Texas and POTUS from 2001-2009. He thought testing and punishment worked so well in Texas that he would make it an nationwide policy.
2003- TAKS TESTS
The Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) replaced TAAS as the primary statewide assessment program. TAKS was designed by legislative mandate to be more comprehensive than its predecessors and to measure more of the state-mandated curriculum, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), and administered in two additional grades. By law, students for whom TAKS is the graduation testing requirement must pass exit level tests in four content areas—English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies—to graduate from a Texas public high school. Spanish versions of TAKS were administered in grades 3–6.
2003-2011 there were many variations of TAKS TESTS.
Since 2004 PBMAS reports have been produced with specific district-level data for each performance indicator and since 2016 the reports also included four SPP federally required elements. State-level PBMAS reports were first produced in 2006 and regional reports in 2007. (This was the next big game changer. It compared data of in-school suspensions, out of school suspension, or sent to alternative school (DAEP), and expulsions between SPED and Non-SPED students. If the ratios were inconsistent, then the district was required to write a “monitoring plan” on how they intended to address the discrepancy. In response, most districts created policies to limit the number of students being suspended or sent to DAEP. Their response was pat them on the head and send them back to class. Problem fixed, no report to write. Also, as part of this process they limited the number of students being served through SPED services which also reduce the numbers.
The concept was consistent with the idea that, if a teacher sends to many office referrals, then they must be a bad teacher. If a district has to many suspensions then they must be a bad district.
2011- STAAR/End of Course Exams
EOC assessments in Algebra I, geometry, Algebra II, biology, chemistry, physics, English I, world geography, and U.S. history were tested operationally; EOC assessments in English II, English III, and world history were field-tested. STAAR 3–8 field test items were “embedded” in the TAKS live test form with the exception of grades 4 and 7 writing that were stand-alone field tests. STAAR EOC English II, English III and world history assessments were field tested for the first time in 2011. In addition, the other nine STAAR EOC assessments—Algebra I, geometry, Algebra II, biology, chemistry, physics, English I, world geography, and U.S. history—were administered as operational tests. (The person who wrote the original description above failed to acknowledge that in the beginning the law required passing 15 tests to graduate high school. It was later amended to 5; English 1, English 2, Algebra 1, Biology, and US History).
2013- SENATE BILL 393
SB-393 Added a new subchapter to the Texas Education Code, Chapter 37 (TEC . 37.144) related to criminal procedures related to issuing citations, sanctions, and prosecuting students for certain offenses. It is important to first define relevant terms that are used throughout this bill. This bill defined a child to be at least 10 years of age and younger than 17 years of age. A school offense is defined as an offense committed by a student enrolled in a public school that is a Class C misdemeanor other than a traffic offense committed on property under the control and jurisdiction of a school district (§37.141(2)). SB 393 includes several components. First, in the event there is a conflict of law, SB 393 overrules SB 1114 as applied to a school offense allegedly committed by a child. While an officer may take a child into custody under §52.01, Family Code, the officer may not issue a citation to a student who allegedly commits a school offense.
Furthermore, TEC §37.144 allows for the development of graduated sanctions for certain school offenses if the district commissions peace officers. This process allows a student to complete alternative sanctions (e.g., complete community service or receive tutoring) rather than pay court-related costs. These graduated sanctions are required to be placed on the child before a complaint may be filed. The graduated sanctions system must require (1) a warning letter issued to the child and the child’s guardians, (2) a behavior contract specifying the behavior that is required or prohibited from the child, (3) the completion of school-based community services by the child, and (4) the referral to counseling, community-based services, or other in-school or out-of-school services that may address the child’s behavior. If the child fails to adhere to the graduated sanctions, the school may file a complaint with a criminal court. The complaint must be sworn to by a witness to the behavior in question. A school employee must attach a statement to the complaint detailing if the child is eligible for, or receives, special services and the graduated sanctions mentioned above. Additionally, certain courts, probation departments, or school districts may employ a case manager for at risk children. The case managers will assist the court in administering the juvenile docket. Furthermore, the case managers may provide prevention services for at-risk children as well as intervention services to children engaged in misconduct prior to charges being filed.
On August 29, 2013 The Texas Tribune did an analysis of SB-393 and how it would impact schools. The side-by-side table towards the end tells the whole story.
The State of Texas has systematically taken away all the control from schools and made them a dangerous place for teachers and students. There are no protections in place any more. The school shootings are just another symptom of the problems created by the loosening of the ability for schools to make decisions that are in their best interest. Laws have tied administrator’s hands behind their backs.
When people outside schools ask, “How did we get this way?”. It’s very simple, the officials that were elected, passed this laws that set education back a long way, then they are responsible, mostly. We as the voting public are also responsible for putting them in office.
This past week as I was working on this article an administrator at the ninth graded center at my former campus was attacked, then beaten to the point of having a seizure while trying to break up fight.
The philosophy behind SB-393 was that we were creating a “school-to-jail pipeline”. In some cases, it was true. Students were issued tickets, then did not complete the court required consequences, then they landed in jail. That was a choice they made, not the system. Children/young adults that are fourteen, fifteen and sixteen know the difference between right and wrong, or should. If they don’t, then that is a parental problem, not the school problem.
If we truly want to see changes in schools, then it can’t start at the state capital. It must start at home with parents. Parents must teach their children the difference between right and wrong, then hold them accountable when they do something wrong. We cannot nor should we expect a bunch of self-serving politicians will improve public schools as well as making parents and students responsible for their actions. In Austin currently, they are spending the majority of time attempting to pass a voucher bill that would take funding away from public schools rather than passing bills to improve gun laws or improve school safety.
We must do better.
David R Taylor
34 Year Teacher, Coach, and Principal