March 05, 2009
Is the TAKS test at the end of the line?

If so, there's a lot of people who won't be sorry to see it go.

"We have counted on testing and testing only. And it's caused a lot of angst in the schools," Senate Public Education Chair Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, said Wednesday about the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.

"We'll still test, but we're using other variables to give us the results that we need."

Shapiro and House Public Education Chair Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, plan to file the school accountability legislation on Thursday. The changes -- which would start in the 2011-12 school year -- aim to gradually elevate Texas into the top 10 states when it comes to preparing students for college or equipping them with workforce skills.

Texas ranked 46th in the country last year in the Scholastic Assessment Test scores and last among all states in the percentage of adult population with a high school diploma.

The bills in question are HB3 (Eissler) and SB3 (Shapiro). That's quite a lofty goal they've set for this legislation, but a worthwhile one.

The legislative proposal contemplates a "Texas diploma" for college-bound students and a "standard diploma" for those seeking skilled workforce training and a related career. The standard diploma would require three years of English and one year of algebra.

"This diploma will be in a field that says you are certified and are skilled workforce ready," Shapiro said.

Students would be measured by individual improvement instead of a single test score. Existing "exemplary" "recognized" and "acceptable" ratings for schools and school districts will be eliminated and replaced by an "accreditation tier" focused on individual student achievement based on readiness for college or career.

High school, middle school and elementary school campuses also can earn distinctions for excellence in a variety of areas, such as growth in student achievement, workforce readiness, second language learning, fine arts and physical fitness.

Student testing "will cover more than minimum skills," Eissler said. Tests will be given in each grade level in an effort to get "an instant growth indicator," Eissler said, measuring a student's academic improvement from one year to the next.

We'll have to see what the details are, but I like the general concept. The purpose of school is to prepare you for what comes next, and I think it makes more sense to evaluate them on that kind of metric than on a standardized test one, which is easy to game and doesn't really measure anything useful. This is going to be a lot trickier to do, and I've no doubt there will be problems and disagreements with the implementation. But the direction strikes me as the right one, and so I hope this makes it through. EoW has more.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 05, 2009 to That's our Lege

I'm not quite sure how we can measure accountability without some kind of standardized testing. The TAKS itself is not a bad test, or so says my 6th-grade math-teaching wife. It's all well and fine to say that more of the assessment should be left to the teachers, who work with their students each and every day and probably know about their individual strengths and weaknesses better than any test. But that's only applicable to good, effective teachers, and I hate to say it, but not all teachers are good and effective. Some teachers are downright harmful to the education process. I think standardized testing should continue to be at least one of the methods used to weed out such teachers. Perhaps not the only one, but I think it has to be in the mix.

Posted by: Ian Hlavacek on March 6, 2009 10:51 AM

A lot of pressure is placed on students as young 8 because teachers fear for their jobs. If the state hired incompetent teachers, this is a poor way to correct the mistake.

Posted by: Stan wilson on March 23, 2009 8:09 PM

Three questions?

1. How many time in a year do you take the TAKS and get to retake if you fail?

2. Lets say you fail the TAKS test but have all A's or B's in school can you retake?

3. I heard private schools don't take TAKS is that true?

Posted by: Amy on March 26, 2009 11:27 AM
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