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[Susan notes: Here are two strong letters, focusing on specifics rather than broad complaints.]

Published in Houston Chronicle

To the editor

MY heart leapt as I read the Jan. 23 Page One headline: "SAAVEDRA WANTS FOCUS ON TEACHING, NOT TESTS / Superintendent's plan would revamp the administration and cut back on standardized exams." Yes, finally, an upper-level administrator who is headed in the right direction. The goals sounded wonderful.

But my heart sank as I read the article, which read like a Houston Independent School District press release. When will these pertinent questions be asked?

How do you de-emphasize testing by creating more tests?

What's the difference between district superintendents and executive principals?

Who sees the irony that students will "lose a full month of instruction time testing," while a plan is unveiled that will create more end-of-course tests to be tied to promotion?

What are the specific tests that are being eliminated?

Should early childhood centers come at the expense of programs that serve low-income students with tutorials, after-school programs and teacher training?

When I began teaching in HISD in 1985, the tests were called proficiency tests. There have also been TEAMS, TAAS and (before TAKS) my students took an end-of-course test. So now we plan to go back to an end-of-course test?

The nation, the city and especially educators want real reform instead of name changes.




Alter HISD's culture

BRAVO to Superintendent Abe Saavedra for replacing the frenzy in the Houston Independent School District for testing with a teaching focus that provides a nurturing learning environment for all students. Perhaps now teachers will be allowed to do what they do best, and are under contract to perform; that is teach! If these educators wanted only to do test preparation, they would have been tutors for a for-profit organization, not certified teachers.

However, for Saavedra's philosophy to prevail, the administrative culture of the school district must change drastically. As long as promotions and financial rewards are offered to administrators for student performance on standardized tests, these administrators will continue to "chase test scores" and require those they supervise to do the same.

The executive principal positions should be filled with strong instructional leaders who provide a stimulating learning climate where teachers and pupils may flourish, not a "testing" mill fueled by fear and intimidation.


Ferryn Martin and Jay Spuck

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