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Commentary: The High Stakes of Being a Third Grader

A new commentary on TribTalk exposes the flawed logic of outcomes-based funding, which rewards districts whose third graders perform well on a standardized test of reading skills and effectively penalizes districts whose third graders struggle on that test.

“Let’s be very clear: Under these proposals, the state would partially fund our schools based on the performance of 8-year-olds on a high-stakes test given on a single day,” the commentary reads.

One of the tests, the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR), is facing increasing scrutiny after media reports that STAAR is actually measuring the progress of Texas third-grade students using standards appropriate for fourth or fifth graders.

Author Michelle Smith notes that the name, outcomes funding, is rosy and misleading. “A more appropriate name, based on what is being measured, rewarded, and punished, is ‘test-based funding.’ Whatever you call it, this type of funding mechanism would weaken Texas public schools and students—especially those who need the most help,” Smith wrote.

Smith, director of government relations for Raise Your Hand Texas (RYHT), cited an RYHT poll of likely 2020 voters that asked about tying public school funding to performance on standardized tests. Seventy-eight percent of respondents opposed test-based funding.

Read “The high stakes of being a third grader” by Michelle Smith, TribTalk.

May 15, 2019