Stepping out of campaign coverage for a second, here's a look ahead to some TAKS tinkering the Lege will take up next year.
Texas public school students could face less pressure on the TAKS test under a proposal that key lawmakers unveiled Tuesday to overhaul the state's school accountability system.
Under the plan, elementary and middle school students would no longer have to pass the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test to advance to the next grade level.
Schools still would be held accountable for low test scores, but they would get credit for improvement -- even if students fell short of certain targets.
While several parents and school leaders praised the proposed changes to the school grading system as being more fair, others expressed concern that Texas would be lowering its standards. The Legislature is expected to consider the idea, offered by a special House-Senate committee on school accountability, next year.
"What this proposal does is eliminate the high-stakes testing in elementary schools, and I think that's a very positive development," said Spring Branch Superintendent Duncan Klussmann.
The revamped school grading system, which would require extra help for the struggling students, also would base annual performance ratings on three years of test scores instead of a single year and would give credit for student improvement. Districts would get judged on their financial health, too.
Pasadena ISD Superintendent Kirk Lewis applauded the move to averaging scores, noting that under the current system a school could be stigmatized with a low rating if it barely missed the mark in one subject one year.
"I think it will be helpful in taking some of the pressure off the schools," Kirk said. "I believe in accountability ... but the tweaks they're making, it appears it would be a positive improvement over what we've got."
Legislative leaders concede weaknesses in the current system -- which rates schools on TAKS scores, graduation rates and dropout rates -- and they heard complaints from educators and parents during hearings around the state this year.
"We found that the TAKS was the main focus of a lot of our education efforts, and it's a minimal-skills test," said House Public Education Chairman Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands.