Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Lawmaker Says There's Too Much Emphasis on TAKS, Channel 8 News, Austin

This reporter below didn’t cover it, but my older daughter, Clara Zamora, spoke, as well, at the press conference today. She shared her views of the TAKS test and how it takes up too much instructional time and how it places too much pressure on children. She said that she doesn’t blame the schools but rather the government because it forces principals and teachers to make it (and the benchmarks) the center of schooling and how that’s unfair. She said that an education should be about learning and not about so much testing.

Though I’m hopelessly biased, Clara rocked! She’s so unassuming and understated that she exhibited, by all accounts, enormous credibility. She also made it clear that there’s nothing wrong with the test itself. The problem is the way it’s used.

As mentioned in an earlier message, Clara also wants to inform kids of their right to not have to take the test. She and some of her friends are signing an on-line petition that they created over the weekend to support State Rep. Dora Olivo’s bills. Hopefully, she’ll be able to use this as part of her testimony next Tuesday, May 3rd, when the Committee on Public Education plans on taking testimony on the legislation—barring any unforeseen contrivance by our unsupportive Chairman on Public Education. Having effectively joined the ranks of other known conscientious test objectors—Kim Marciniak and Mia Kang (both of San Antonio), Macario Guajardo (EdCouch-Elsa), and Emiliano Guajardo (Austin)—she’s in good company. Her parents are very proud about her principled stance and her willingness to speak on behalf of children in Texas. -Angela

News 8 Story

Lawmaker Says There's Too Much Emphasis on TAKS
4/26/2005 6:11 PM
By: Allie Rasmus 

It's a four-letter word that just about every parent with school-aged children knows - TAKS.

Texas students finished taking the standardized test last week.

The statewide exams test third through 11th graders every April on a variety of subjects.

In third, fifth and eighth grades, students who fail the TAKS fail the grade.

"When we get to one bubble-filling day and that makes the decision whether students pass or not, there's something wrong with that picture," Rep. Dora Olivo, D-Rosenberg, said.

Olivo wrote a bill that would make the TAKS test just one of several criteria to determine whether a student stays behind.

"The students' grades, the teacher opinion, plus the test to measure that student's performance," Olivo said.

The importance of TAKS
A bill would make the TAKS test just one of several criteria for determining student performance.

Elementary school teachers Marlee Criaco and Sue Calhoun say that's not a bad idea.

"It's very high pressure. There are kids who have never been sick before but they're so stressed out they're throwing up on the test, they're getting headaches," Criaco said.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with the TAKS test. We need to teach our children the skills that are in the TAKS test. But I think it's a sad thing that so much accountability is focused on one test," Calhoun said.

Olivo's bills, HB 1612 and HB 1613, weren't included to the House's education reform plan, but the Senate is expected to vote on its version of the House education bill on Thursday.

Olivo said there's still time this session to change the rules and decrease the pressure on Texas students. The bill is still pending in the House Education Committee. It's tentatively scheduled for a hearing on May 3.


  1. This article basically sums up the fact that testing is being taken too far. The fact that the assessment system is labeled high-stakes, like a high-stakes poker game that gambles with the futures of children is not a good thing. It is important, the future of the education system and the accomplishments of our children, but it should not all be based on one test, a one-time chance to prove that they have learned, like the roll of a die.

    The skills that the assessment system measures are important, but these very skills are being jeopardized because so much time is taken to actually prepare for the particular test. Olivo's bills on multiple criteria for evaluation of students is the way to go, as the educational attainment of a student is not based only on one thing.

    Whether a student scores at a certain percentile does not determine whether they have actually learned. The overall goal should be civic participation and education that can allow a student to choose an economic path to success. THis is not just a test score, but more accurately measured through many factors.

    If tests were the answer, as I read in another article, we wouldn't have any educational problems left. This in addition to the funds spent analyzing the results from one assessment.

  2. I have to agree that TAKs and standardized testing in Texas is getting out of hand. It has not been that long ago for me to remember when I was taking the then standardized test, the TAAS, for the last time my sophomore year in high school. It was a stressful time of year where all my core teachers kept reminding the students how important this test was. The TAAS decided whether we graduated from high school or not, how stressful can that one statement be to an adolescent.

    I agree with Dora Olivo’s bills with the TAKS test being just one of several criteria to determine whether a student is held back or not. It is not fair that everything that a student goes through in their public education life be determined by one test. It is also not fair to those particularly bright students who are just poor test takers.

    Teachers these days are finally admitting that they are just teaching to the test. Especially since the TAKS replaced the TAAS and the test became a more difficult. How can public school students get a truly valued education if they are just being taught about how to learn to take one test? Not only that, but are put under a huge amount of pressure at a young age to pass since it will determine the rest of their academic career. Hopefully the Legislature will take into account the testimonies that were heard at the press conference since they will not be able to be heard at the committee hearings on May 3rd. And Dora Olivo’s bills will be passed.

  3. Accountability is a necessity in any public school system, however the definition of success described by Texas policy-makers is incredibly narrow. I agree that we should have some set of standards that students must meet but creating this type of pressure is not the answer.

    Considering that schools have diverse needs and diverse children, it doesn't make sense to have one presribed method of assessment. NCLB, which has been the root of tesing as a method of accountability, is underfunded and does not address the issues schools are currently facing.

    Is it possible to consider that the reason children are having difficulty learning is because schools are spending thier limited resources on testing? The fact that educating children is a multi-faceted issue suggests, at least to me, that addressing educational success requires expanding this narrow lens of a single indicator exam.

    I think the state and federal government need to take a closer look at schools and what influences a child's success. It seems as though there is a huge disconnect between law-makers and community members. I wonder what type of solutions would come from those whose children are actually having to endure these high-stakes exams.