In the past few decades, a number of initiatives and national or state strategies have been implemented to establish wide-reaching standardized testing and teaching material. Though the purpose of such universal initiatives is to ensure students receive education of equal quality and accessibility, there have been examples of standardized testing being both beneficial and damaging. The controversy surrounding such programs is often reflective of the diverse needs of many students. As such, while the standardized materials and testing ensure that all students follow comparable curriculums, they can frequently stifle the individual learning and growth of certain students. Despite this, certain initiatives such as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) aim to cultivate responsibility in the administration of the schools regarding the learning and achievements of their students. Additionally, it was created to provide disadvantaged students with equal opportunities. Programs like the ESSA influence national standardized testing, and by extension, they have some ability to alter the curriculum. As an example, ESSA allows districts to select nationally recognized tests, cap the amount of times students are tested, fund assessment systems, establish improved pilot programs, and allow computer-adaptive testing.
Though the effects of both assisting programs such as ESSA and nationalized testing cannot be measured completely, the curriculum which is influenced by both is largely effective within my district of Van Alstyne, Texas. Currently, Van Alstyne Independent School District, in particular, is noticing increases in funding, improved and new programs, and other steady improvements as a result of ESSA and other initiative functions. Currently, the curriculum is able to serve the needs of all the students within the area. Despite this, in my personal opinion, there is still a lack of accessibility to and for ESL students. Students that are still learning English or another second language have a hard time finding opportunities to do so. As such, it would be extremely beneficial to introduce professionals specializing in languages or having the ability to speak a second language outside of English. Additionally, the enforcement of ESL standards and practices is currently inadequate and requires more resources and enforcement.
The effectiveness of the curriculum can be observed through statistical data regarding STAAR reading assessment results. The State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness program, or STAAR, is an annual evaluation procedure that tests the reading and mathematical abilities of students from third to eighth grade. The Van Alstyne Independent School District currently scores high in reading among third-grade students, with percent scores never falling below 70% on the average (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, 2021). Though the student population is not large within the area, the performance of all the students was satisfactory and provided acceptable scores throughout the examinations. There are currently disparities among students of different backgrounds, economic statuses, and ethnicities, but the gaps are becoming smaller in recent years, pointing to likely improvement of the curriculum for all students. Following changes in other states, the Van Alstyne Independent School District has also begun to orient their curriculum and testing towards more flexible features such as those provided by the ESSA. Programs that focus on particular needs of students within very specific areas are more likely to notice improved results from the entire student body, as well as from disadvantaged students who are likely to experience more accessible and equal opportunities. Though the changes are not fully implemented, the district is likely to notice positive results both in the short and long term.
State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness. (2021). Student scores – 2021 STAAR reading, grade 3; 2019 STAAR reading, grade 3; 2018 STAAR reading, grade 3 [Data set].