Opinion Research

State Study: Texas

Effective Learning Strategies

As education leaders in Texas finalize their plans to implement federal and state policies on assessment and accountability under ESSA, it is crucial to understand how parents and teachers feel about these topics. This study seeks to elevate the voices of parents and teachers to better understand their points of view about assessments in Texas today as they work together to drive better learning for every student in their state. The study compares results in Texas with those of a 2016 national Gallup-NWEA study, contrasting the views of the nation with a Texas perspective that is one-of-a-kind.

Key Findings for Effective Learning

Large majorities of Texas parents and teachers value assessments that help teachers teach and students learn.

  • Texas parents value education assessments for multiple purposes, including identifying student learning needs (93%), measuring student proficiency (90%), and informing instruction (87%).
  • Texas teachers use assessment data to set goals to improve their instructional practice (91%), to adjust instructional strategies (89%), and to plan and differentiate instruction (87%).

The utility and effectiveness of state accountability tests is perceived very differently by low- and middle-SES Texas parents, and high-SES Texas parents.

  • While 64% of low- and middle-SES Texas parents believe that their child’s teachers are effectively or very effectively using state accountability tests to meet their child’s learning needs, only 41% of the high SES Texas parents feel the same way.
  • Many more low- and middle-SES Texas parents than high-SES Texas parents agree or strongly agree that their child’s school uses state accountability test data to improve student learning (44% vs. 13%) and improve the quality of teaching (43% and 11%).

Many Texas teachers find educational value in state accountability tests.

  • A majority of Texas teachers agree that state accountability test results should be used to evaluate a student’s mastery of key concepts (68%), and half think these test results should be used to evaluate a student’s college readiness.

A minority of Texas teachers and parents agree with using state accountability test results for high-stakes decisions about students.

  • A minority of Texas parents (44%) and teachers (32%) believe that state accountability test results should be used to determine whether a student is eligible to graduate from high school.
  • A minority of Texas parents (42%) believe state accountability test results should be used to determine whether their child advances to the next grade.

Texas parents and Texas teachers have different opinions about time spent on assessments.

  • A significant majority of Texas teachers say students spend too much time taking assessments (68%) and they spend too much time preparing for and administering assessments (73%).
  • However, 60% of Texas parents say that students spend the right amount or too little time taking assessments, and 55% say teachers spend the right amount or too little time preparing for and administering assessments.

Texas teachers and parents agree that communication between them about assessment purpose and results needs improvement.

  • While 73% of Texas parents agree that their child’s school does a good job of telling parents when assessments will be conducted, only 49% agree that their child’s school does a good job of teaching parents about the purpose of assessments, and 47% agree that their child’s school does a good job of explaining the purpose of the STAAR tests.
  • Only 44% of Texas teachers say they feel very prepared to communicate assessment results to parents, and only 27% said they received training on communicating assessment results to parents.

Recommendations to improve assessment for learning

  • Teachers should be well-prepared to develop assessments and use assessment data in their classrooms, and to collaborate with parents and provide them with guidance and resources to support student learning beyond the classroom.
  • Higher education programs in Texas can work to ensure that teacher preparation programs include assessment literacy as a key element in their curriculum.
  • More specifically, supporting productive partnerships between teacher preparation programs and K-12 districts where pre-service teachers have real-world opportunities with district and state assessment systems as a part of their professional preparation could help new teachers jump-start their use of assessments as tools for improving student learning.

  • Policymakers can support legislation for K-12 systems to be able to provide ongoing resources to ensure that all in-service K-12 teachers are assessment literate and are able to support parents and students in a personalized and customized way.
  • Education leaders should continue to explore innovative ways assess student proficiency and growth that deliver results during the school year, ensuring that the resulting assessment data are delivered in time to influence student learning in meaningful ways.