I prepared this as a summary of a much more detailed article located here. If you find this piece interesting or if you have time, please read the longer version. The longer version is about 20 pages and goes through each and every question on the STAAR test. Thank you for reading and visiting.
A few days ago, I came across the Social Studies/US History test (called State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness or STAAR test) all 8th graders in Texas take. Neither educators, nor subject-matter experts design this test or the curriculum it is based on, and their input is not allowed. Politicians, specifically GOP/Tea Party politicians, control virtually all aspects of education in Texas. Texas consistently ranks at the very bottom, and the problem is in no way a lack of money: Our leaders don’t want an educated, productive, happy society.
I decided to read through a few of the questions, and it quickly became apparent, I was going to have to do a question-by-question, answer choice-by-answer choice critique. The findings are more disturbing than I thought possible.
The test is full of (mis)leading information and propaganda. Pure. And. Simple. There is very little actual history in the test. Children in Texas are purposely being under-educated and mis-educated. Altogether, this STAAR test reminds me more of a literacy test, such as one the individuals racialized as black had to take, or of a citizenship test.
The majority of questions focus on rights people supposedly have in the United States. Over and over again, the test requires students to select free speech, freedom of religion, speedy trials, etc. This test pretends that we actually have these rights! This test pretends that the GOP and the government actually care about the people, the 98 percent.
Furthermore, the test also focuses on “great [white] men.” In the STAAR version of history, George Washington and his peers are worthy of nothing but praise. In reality, the “founding fathers” and other “great [white] men” of our nation’s past have generally been completely against supporting freedom and equality.
Worse, Native Americans, Black Americans, women, and every day workers/people are completely omitted, presented as if they were actually the problem, or presented as if they actually had significant opportunities and rights over a hundred years before said example could have been a remote possibility. These parts of the test literally make me feel physically sick because the questions and answer choices are so disgusting and misleading.
All of the wrong answer choices, like all of the right ones, and like all of the questions promote a United States that has never done anything wrong and that is the “greatest nation in the world”—a version of the United States that is so fake it might as well be utopian fiction. The test pretends that the Supreme Court might have actually ended slavery. In a half dozen instances, unions are discussed as if they have always been welcomed and celebrated in the United States. In Texas specifically, unions are for all practical purposes illegal or powerless.
Throughout the STAAR test, questions and answers don’t come anywhere close to representing the variety of history studied and available. We must recognize (as I do in my other research) that every part of this test–what it says and what it does not say–tells us MORE about TODAY’S world, TODAY’S hopes and fears, TODAY’S agendas than any possible notion of anything related to legitimate social studies. We must also hypothesize possible deeper, long-term unconscious consequences of the test.
Students who can successfully pass the STAAR test will in no way be prepared for success in college or in life. The blame belongs to politicians first and foremost. Don’t blame classroom teachers.
We desperately need a society that appreciates and understands history, politics, and our culture if we are ever going to work toward curing the disease of anti-intellectualism that plagues the United States. We desperately need a society that celebrates, embraces, and honors diversity and the civil and human rights of all people.