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Rick Perry vetoes bill to investigate whether high stakes testing is worth it

Pressure is not rigor

Perry might have imperiled his potential re-election bid by vetoing anti-corruption funding, an equal pay measure, and a bill to protect the University of Texas from political interference. Getting less attention—but guaranteeing more harm—is his veto of a bill to ease testing in elementary and middle schools.

No Child Left Behind requires that states test kids in reading and math every year in grades 3-8 and in science less often. Each round of testing consumes an entire school week for the real thing and two extra weeks benchmark (dress rehearsal) tests, and then practice tests on top of that. In practice, Texas elementary students are taking their equivalent of an SAT test 15 times in a year, and that’s on top of the worksheets, test consulting and practice tests. A Texas school year is 180 days long, and testing eats up more than a month of that.
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HB 2836 would have forced the state to prove that these tests, called the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR tests, were valid measures of accountability, a basic question policy makers have never asked. Additionally, HB 2836 would have cut the length of the tests administered to young children to two hours from four, which is as long as the LSAT, the test given to prospective law students, takes.

Besides freeing up huge chunks of the school year to allow for actual instruction, this bill would have lifted what has become a punishing psychological burden on children who still sleep in superhero pajamas. Stress-induced vomiting is so common that the tests come with instructions for teachers on what to do when it happens. What a Texas child knows of rigor in elementary school is the overwhelming fear of failing.