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Our focus should be on learning

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Dear Lewisville ISD Community,

As you may know, the Texas Education Agency released the latest student STAAR/TAKS scores late last week. Overall, our students performed exceptionally well. Traditionally, our students meet or exceed state averages, and we predict we will do so once again. While the district has always performed well, we believe what the STAAR/TAKS measures is too narrow and does not accurately reflect the quality of education students receive in LISD.

I applaud our teachers and students for their hard work; however, our focus is not on a four-hour, bubble-in scantron test for each core subject. We believe our focus should be on the learning.

Throughout this school year, LISD concentrated on an educational experience for all students with a strong emphasis on engagement, enrichment and rigor. When students are highly engaged, they learn at profound levels.

A true assessment allows for parents, teachers and students to make decisions about how to improve learning. Such assessment would include timely discussions identifying how learning progressed, areas in which students excelled and areas for improvement. This type of assessment informs, motivates and inspires students.

Our Board of Trustees’ support has been critical in leading the effort to push the State to reduce and redesign the high-stakes testing system. LISD was the first Texas school district to pass a resolution de-emphasizing the importance of high-stakes testing while maintaining high standards for every learner. Soon after this action, more than 800 Texas school boards passed this resolution.

Thank you to our Board’s leadership and the many boards who followed them. This action led parents across Texas to lobby for a reduction in high-stakes testing. This effort was successful with the passing of House Bill 5, which reduced the number of high school end-of-course tests.

A bill to reduce testing in the elementary and middle schools was unanimously passed by the legislature during the recent legislative session; however, the governor vetoed that bill. Our Board, along with parent groups, asked our local elected officials to make a reduction in elementary and middle school testing a priority for the 2015 legislative session.

We believe we should be accountable, but there can be a better system than what we have now. Our partner districts in The North Texas Regional Consortium have called for a more common sense approach to state mandated high-stakes tests, as well as for developing assessments that matter to local communities and encourage learning by students, rather than causing excessive stress and fear.

While LISD believes there is a better methodology than today’s accountability system, we want our students to perform well. We want our students to do well on any test, whether it is a test given by a teacher, the state, or a college entrance exam. Regardless of the test, our focus will be, and continues to be, high quality learning.

Dr. Stephen F. Waddell, Superintendent
Lewisville Independent School District

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