The State of Texas: The STAAR Test Lives To See Another Day
Plus: A new study sheds light on in-custody deaths, Texas A&M threatens to use eminent domain to rub out a beloved Dallas bar, and competing fliers duke it out in Arlington over a proposed new baseball stadium.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Play life to the full! Today, take life as it comes and do good for others. In the world today, a game is being played out in which there is no room for substitutes: either you’re in the team or you’re out.”
—Pope Francis speaking in Spanish to the Diocese of Brownsville via a video message, according to Religion News Service. The Pope reportedly directed his message to Brownsville’s Catholic youth as they celebrated World Youth Day. Pope Francis likely singled out Brownsville because the Vatican has identified it as “one of the most impoverished areas” in the U.S., but it’s unclear why he chose to use a sports metaphor.
Not Dead Yet
A state commission that helps hash out statewide testing systems was expected to totally scrap the STAAR tests during a meeting yesterday, but the panel instead decided to strike down a recommendation to replace the controversial standardized tests, according to the Texas Tribune. In the meeting, the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability did, however, pass a report that officially proposes some smaller changes, including spreading STAAR assessments out over the course of a school year and making the testing process primarily digital. The proposals, which will be firmed up in a final report due September 1, are non-binding for state lawmakers. According to the Tribune, parent and teacher groups were hoping the panel would make “massive changes,” so they were probably pretty disappointed when the commission decided to strike a line from the report that proposed replacing STAAR tests entirely. Just last week, a new survey showed that most Texans wanted to get rid of STAAR, with 63 percent of respondents favoring replacing it with a national testing system like the SAT or ACT, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Eighty-seven percent of respondents favored tests that provided more immediate feedback than STAAR tests, and 97 percent didn’t want trick questions like those said to be found on STAAR tests. This comes after a school year that was a recurring STAAR nightmare. Thousands of test-takers had answers wiped out, some packets had questions with no correct answer, and some tests were delivered to the wrong districts, leading the Texas Education Agency to decide that this year’s results wouldn’t count for fifth and eighth graders, who usually have to pass in order to move on to the next grade.
MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS
A recently released study conducted by the University of Texas’s Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis sheds light on exactly how many in-custody deaths happen in Texas, finding that nearly 7,000 people have died while in the custody of law enforcement over the past ten years, according to the Texas Tribune. One of the most disturbing stats from the study? Almost 2,000 of the 6,913 recorded deaths between 2005 and 2015 were people who were not convicted of a crime. The vast majority of the overall deaths—70 percent—were said to have been of natural causes. There were 772 recorded suicides, 573 “justifiable homicides,” 275 deaths related to alcohol or drug intoxication, and 168 deaths caused by “accidental injuries.” According to the database, 16 percent died during an interaction with law enforcement prior to being booked. Most of the deaths, 4,684, occurred in Texas prisons. Forty-two percent of the fatalities were white, 30 percent were African American, and 28 percent were Hispanic.
Texas A&M is attempting to squeeze out a legendary East Dallas dive bar by using eminent domain, according to the Dallas Morning News. The Elbow Room has dished out drinks and pizza in the same Deep Ellum spot for 30 or 50 years, “depending on who you ask,” but now the university has plans to knock down the watering hole and replace it with a nine-story dental school, which almost definitely won’t serve alcohol. The university’s board of regents voted in April to approve initiating eminent domain proceedings if the bar’s owners won’t voluntarily fork over their property. The bar’s owners don’t seem to have much of a choice—if they don’t sell, the university will just take it and leave them with nothing. This is the cost, apparently, of a 25 percent increase in dental school enrollment, which, as an A&M spokesperson explained to the Morning News, is one of the perks of the planned project. That’s likely of little consolation to the bar’s regulars. To make matters even worse, the owners of the bar are apparently die-hard Texas A&M supporters—or, at least they used to be.
There’s a pretty heated battle going on in Arlington right now between two opposing flier campaigns—one pushing for voters to strike down a proposed $500 million public subsidy for a new Texas Rangers baseball stadium, and the other encouraging people to go ahead and root, root, root for the ballpark, according to the Dallas Morning News. Some gems from the “no” flier, which is basically a block of black text, frequently in all-caps, on bright red paper: “Two stadiums are enough. TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION”, “Do not allow wheeler-dealers to continue to separate you from your hard-earned money… we are paying for out-of-town Ranger fans who insult us by staying in Dallas or Fort Worth and spending their money there when they attend games,” and, referring to the city’s announcement of deadlines for the project before the vote has even taken place: “WHAT ARROGANCE!” It’s quite the screed. The pro-stadium fliers are far more slick and reserved, consisting solely of a message of support from Arlington’s mayor with a website listed at the bottom. The vote’s not until November, so expect this flier fight to be long and brutal.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Check out this Houston barista’s ridiculously detailed latte art Houston Chronicle
The Castro brothers probably shouldn’t give up politics for a career in comedy San Antonio Express-News
Gotta watch out for those “urinating” Hibachi restaurant toys KXAN
Two police officers in McAllen are off the force after attacking a handcuffed man McAllen Monitor
Are West Texas’s peanut crops in trouble? Lubbock Avalanche-Journal