Category Archives: testing

The Pilfering of Public Education

Another reason to vote for pro-public education politicians:

The pilfering of public education continues. Next week starts testing, where we will do what the state makes us do even though we know these tests don’t measure what testing companies and politicians and charter schools focused on test scores and the bankers that make big bucks off those charters say they measure. These are endurance tests where focus and the ability to sit for long periods of time will be rewarded even though those two things don’t tell us much about the future success of a student. These endurance grades will be applied to districts and schools this year. Next fall we’ll see the new crop of A-F grades. Schools filled with children who can sit, read, bubble and write for FIVE straight hours will earn an A grade. Good for them.

I’m not anti-test, but I am anti this monster our politicians have created.

A few years ago a new student joined my class in mid-October. She was confused about the focus on tests, the practice tests, the streamlined lessons built to the test, the classes for those who’d failed the test. Where she lived, no one ever talked about the test until the week before and then you took a two-hour test on a computer and went on with your day. She thought Texas was crazy. She’s right.

But schools have to do what the state tells them they must. So we will do this. Our testing coordinators have planned and organized and worked to make the process as painless as possible. We’ve been trained to actively monitor, read directions and say “I can’t answer that. Just do the best you can.” Administers are ready to walk through buildings monitoring constantly. The hall assistants have their Fitbits ready to count the steps. I think some of ours did 10 miles last year.

We will do this and we will make sure our kids know they are more than a test score. The testing company will earn its $70-$90 million they’ve been paid for this test year. And we will lobby the lege to change this nonsense. And it will go on and on and on UNTIL we vote for politicians who listen to educators.


I couldn’t read when we moved to Minnesota from Arkansas. Back then we were in groups by color. I was the only one in the red group. My teacher Mrs. Tagee didn’t leave me in that group. She worked with me until I could read with everyone else. 

In fourth grade my teacher Mrs. Baumgardner gave me my first big book: Little Women. I loved that book so much. I finished it at my grandma’s while waiting to move into our new house in Burkburnett, TX.

In Burk, my fifth grade teacher, Mr. Novak, told me I had a gift with words. My sixth grade social studies teacher realized I could make straight 100s in class but my penmanship was awful, so she helped me there. My eighth grade English teacher taught me how to write a research paper, and I used those lessons all the way through my MA in English. My ninth and tenth grade math teacher told me my problem with math was fear, and even though it took a few more years for me to get it, Mr. Brown’s explanation made all the difference in the world. My journalism adviser, Mrs. Anne Gillespie, changed my world. She’s why I am a journalism adviser today and have been for the last 23 years. My junior English teacher, Mrs. Bo, helped literature come to life and demanded I up my writing game to make good grades in her class. 

Most of us went to public school. Most of us had great public school experiences. Public schools have been under attack for decades, and most of those atracks have been about something other than education. Public schools can be miracle workers, but they cannot be blamed for all the social ills of this world. They cannot be blamed for poverty and the educational woes that come lockstep with it. They cannot be blamed for the fact that politicians haven’t figured out how to fund them properly.

I loved school. I still love school. I hope we as a nation refuse to let bankers and politicians destroy our public school system.

#ProudProductOfPublicSchools #ProudPublicSchoolTeacher

The People Spoke, We Must Too


It’s no secret who I voted for, but I believe in The People. We live in a country where that means something. I know in 2011 educators met with Dewhurst and he listened. I know others did, too. I know when I wrote my blog post, A Plea from a Teacher that was viewed a bajillion times around the world politicians from all sides commented on it and sincerely wanted to hear back from me. The People spoke yesterday, and it was a resounding defeat for Democrats, but just like the R‘s don’t own Jesus, the D’s don’t own education. Don’t let an election stop you from fighting for the kids, the classroom and what we know is right. Education can not be a partisan issue now. If people let it become one, it gives the testing companies and their lobbyists more power. Most politicians are parents. They want what’s best for kids, too. They just don’t always know what’s best. They won’t ever know if we don’t speak up. Tell your classroom stories. Tell about how the cuts have challenged you as an educator (not just teachers), tell how testing affects your kids, educate the public. If we go around being angry teachers and parents all the time, those “reformers” sound like they’re on to something.

(Another cross posting from my Facebook wall. Sorry if you’re seeing this twice.)

Speak Up For Our Kids. They Deserve Better.

Educators, regardless who you voted for you have a responsibility to speak up about the travesty taking place in our public schools. The testing regime won, but they can change if we speak up for our kids. I know there were other issues than education driving this election. The Republicans were not always tied to Pearson and the billionaires funneling money into the state for for-profit charters. The Republicans don’t have to stay tied to Pearson, and they can thank the billionaires for their campaign contributions while standing up for public education. When Republicans joined forces with Pearson, they didn’t see the truth about testing. Teachers see it now. Teachers live it now. Students suffer through it now. If you are silent, you are saying this is okay. Do not be silent. Fight for our kids.

(Posted on my Facebook wall tonight. Some of you might see it twice because of that.)


Dear Texas State Politicians

inkSince you dedicated your life, or at least a few years, to public servanthood, I have to believe you don’t want to kill the public schools. If you go visit them, especially those with high at-risk populations, you’ll find those schools struggling to survive.

I know when you pass laws, even unfunded mandates, you want the best for Texas students. Before you pass those laws, I’d like to propose a novel concept: talk to teachers. LOTS of teachers. Teachers from all levels in all stages of their careers. Don’t take the word of for-profit companies as law. They’re not in it for the kids. They’re in it for the almighty dollar. So, please, before you listen to them, remember their agenda.

And while we’re talking about for-profit companies and agendas, I’d like you to really think about the for-profit charters setting up shop in Texas. Are they truly serving our students, or are they raking in dollars and cents at the expense of most students attending? I realize all charters are not created equal, but I bet those turning a profit aren’t in it for the kids. Just look at the data from across the country and you’ll see this to be true time and time again.

When something isn’t working, set about fixing it. I know you were hoodwinked into believing our schools weren’t working. I know you’ve committed billions to fixing the “problem.” For your investment professors state-wide say students are less prepared for college than they were before testing began and our SAT scores have stayed the same. The one area data proves the test has actually helped is in lowering the achievement gap for our minority students. That is a fantastic result. I’d like to believe teachers would have worked toward that goal without the money lost to testing.

I know you can make changes based on real data. I know because this year we didn’t give 15 STAAR tests.

But we did give two language arts tests that were far too long. Especially for struggling learners. Try sitting still for close to six hours (or longer if you include lunch). You’ll understand what I mean. In fact, I encourage you to spend two days taking the English 1 and 2 STAAR tests in a classroom, in a desk. Some of the students taking the test are bigger than you, so that shouldn’t be a problem. Maybe you could split your time. Take the test one day and administer the test the next. Experience testing from a student and a testing administrator perspective. That might help you make an informed decision.

That said, other than its length, the ELA STAARs are solid tests in some ways. They measure objectives students need to master before graduating, unlike the tests that came before.

Which leads me to another issue. Right now we have a system that revolves around the test. Teachers are measured by test scores, schools are measured by test scores, school districts are measured by test scores. The test scores reign supreme, and because of that, we have a serious problem in our schools. We have whole years where students aren’t taught subjects because they’re not tested in those academic areas that year. I know that’s ludicrous, but you have set up a system that revolves around the test, and this is the end result. It’s bad for our schools, our teachers and our kids.

Please talk to teachers. We do have the answers. They’re not easy, though. They’re far more difficult than bubbling answer documents and writing 26-line essays. Once again, I realize you never set out to destroy the public school system, but that’s where we are if something doesn’t change.

I appreciate your time.

Mary Beth Lee



Writing time

I hate testing days at school. They’re usually a total waste of my time. I get to read the script, watch the kids and pray no one tries to cheat.
I don’t write because the keyboard bothers the kids or the sound of my pencil bothers them or whatever.
But today, I used pen and Julie Leto’s layering technique and I wrote a TON in two and a half hours.
I’m not looking forward to word processing it, but it was a cool thing to re-learn. Pen and paper works just like BICHOK.
Definitely something to use again!

Interesting b/c it’s the first of these things I don’t agree with:

You Are a Seeker Soul

You are on a quest for knowledge and life challenges.
You love to be curious and ask a ton of questions.
Since you know so much, you make for an interesting conversationalist.
Mentally alert, you can outwit almost anyone (and have fun doing it!).
Very introspective, you can be silently critical of others.
And your quiet nature makes it difficult for people to get to know you.
You see yourself as a philosopher, and you take everything philosophically.
Your main talent is expressing and communicating ideas.

Souls you are most compatible with: Hunter Soul and Visionary Soul

high school football, college

We lost.
I’m not looking forward to Monday. I can already hear my students:
But Mrs. Lee, do we have to cover the game? We lost. That’s not news.
Sure it’s not.
We lost the biggest rivalry of the year. Our only district loss. Playoffs start next week.
It’s news. 🙂

A couple days ago the local paper ran an article that said 75% of college freshmen have to take remedial English and math before taking college classes.
They said senior year is too easy at high schools. As someone who’s there, I have to agree. If kids aren’t in AP classes, senior year’s a joke for the most part. In fact, more and more often I see AP and pre-AP kids challenged, working hard, excelling. Everyone else sitting in a crowded classroom surrounded by kids who don’t want to be there with a teacher who’s got to deal with discipline issues and modifications and has little time to really teach, even though they want to.
I don’t know what the answer is. It’s certainly not a bad thing that more and more kids are in challenging AP programs. But it’s certainly not a good thing that the only way a kid can be truly prepared for college is to be in those elite classes either.
I heard a group of computer teachers talking about a program they saw at an in-service the other day. They said they visited a school where every kid is trained in a trade or in the college bound classes or both. Sounds like a great idea to me. But it sounds expensive too. Not so sure it would work in a town that’s voted down the last few bond issues even though the elementary schools were literally falling down.

No Child Left Behind…bah humbug!

The new laws regarding education are beyond understanding. In a couple years, government officials say all students will pass a standardized test before they graduate. All. 100%.
The test isn’t basic skills.
If I had had to pass the test to graduate, I would’ve failed.
I had this thing about math. It hated me.
But this test 100% of all students will pass includes Alg. 1 & 2 and Geometry. Chemistry, Physics and Biology.
I have a Master’s Degree in English. I love school. But I would’ve bombed a test with that stuff on it.
And why do kids need to be able to do advanced math and science in order to graduate any way? Math teachers around the world might disagree, but I’ve never needed to use Algebra. Not once. Seriously. I learned it in my 20s because I refused to be conquered by fear of numbers. I’m glad I did. But it was wasted time.
Today I saw this great story about a new superintendent in a district that used to have tons of failures. She was amazing and energetic and obviously good at her job. But the last thing she said blew me away. All kids prepared for college. All kids go to college. That’s her philosophy.
When did college become essential for success? My husband used to be an auto mechanic. He made a ton more money than I do as a teacher with a Master’s Degree. The guy who fixes my air conditioner makes more money than me. College is great if you want to go into a profession that requires it, but why is it required to be successful? And I don’t know about the kids in that lady’s district, but in my district, we definitely have kids who aren’t going to college.
I’m all for high expectations, but be reasonable. If a kid can’t write their name, they’re not going to do much with college.
A couple years ago I read this great article about a mentally disabled girl who worked full-time at the local Air Force base. She had an apartment. She took the bus to work. She had benefits. (better than the ones Texas teachers get!) She didn’t pass a test to graduate. And she didn’t go to college. But she had a great life.
I’ve seen the stories about kids who barely speak English when they start high school and end up at Harvard on full scholarships because of high expectations. I know educators and parents have to demand the best from their students. I demand the best from my students. But I’ve pretty much decided this whole every kid is going to college, No Child Behind nonsense is the brainchild of testing companies bilking education systems out of billions of dollars. Unfortunately parents and politicians are buying right into their deception, and that’s a crying shame–especially for the kids who didn’t graduate last year because they couldn’t pass a test.