My reading of this is not that TAKS will be abolished like the title suggests, but that it would count as one criterion among other multiple measures of student achievement when high-stakes decisions (graduation, retention, promotion) are made on students' behalf. This would be more valid and fair. -Angela
NO MORE TAKS: Frustrated by standardized test, Raymond develops legislation to dump it
BY TRICIA CORTEZ , LAREDO MORNING TIMES
Worried about the growing amount of time and resources spent by school districts on getting students to pass the TAKS, state Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, said Tuesday he has drafted legislation that would abolish it as we know it today. "It's gotten to the point where every year the TAKS has done more harm than good," Raymond said from his downtown Laredo office at a press conference.
He was flanked by the superintendents of the Laredo and United independent school districts, as well as teacher union representatives, all of whom agree that the Texas accountability system, and its high-stakes standardized test, is shortchanging millions of students.
"We now spend a full six weeks preparing and testing students on the TAKS," UISD Superintendent Bobby Santos said. “And every year, the state comes up with additional tests."
Daniel Garcia Jr., LISD superintendent, agreed.
"Each year, unfortunately, we lose our way because the focus on the TAKS causes instruction to come to a standstill," Garcia said.
For weeks, classrooms are transformed into centers for TAKS worksheets and TAKS skillsheets, depriving students of developing "a strong foundation and knowledge base in a subject area," Garcia said.
The pressure to pass the TAKS has become severe, with stricter state and federal penalties imposed on schools with low TAKS scores. Students must pass TAKS to pass to the next grade level.
Campuses must now meet a certain overall score, or else face sanctions, state intervention teams, new principals, new teachers and possible reconstitution.
Raymond and Garcia said the pressure is unwarranted since TAKS is not an accurate measure of how much a student knows.
Studies show that just because students pass TAKS does not mean they are reading on grade level, or that they have good comprehension and thinking skills, Garcia said.
"Yet we continue to see that more effort, days and money are spent on a child passing a single test, rather than increasing their knowledge," Raymond added.
His legislation would require that multiple criteria be used to determine if a student can pass to the next grade level, such as six-weeks tests and teacher and principal evaluations.
It would not abolish TAKS completely because, according to the Texas Education Agency, the state would lose $2 billion to $4 billion in federal funding if the test is not administered at all, Raymond noted.
Because standardized testing in Texas and the rest of the country has become a billion-dollar industry, Raymond knows he faces an uphill battle.
"So?" he said, unfazed.
"This needs to be a priority. The system isn’t working," Raymond said. "I know there is support to change it.
"It’s going to happen. If not this session then the next," he said. "We just need a big enough uprising from the rest of the state to do it."
This is not the first time such legislation has been introduced, and it has gained steady support over the years. Last session, it failed passage in the Texas House of Representatives by just a few votes.
Raymond is confident he will get a large number of legislators to sign on and pass the legislation.
"Look, we all want the education system to be better," Raymond added. "I supported former Gov. George W. Bush on his state accountability system, but we’ve had this system long enough to see that it’s become counter-productive."
(Tricia Cortez may be reached at (956) 728-2568 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)
©Laredo Morning Times 2006