The move against TAKS is gaining strength. The move toward end of course exams is coming. -Angela
As TAKS begins, concerns increase
Many parents and teachers doubt value of state's achievement test, according to survey.
By Laura Heinauer
Monday, February 19, 2007
As TAKS season begins this week, opposition to the state's high-stakes test from parents, teachers and lawmakers is mounting.
Parents have become more vocal about eliminating the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, saying that their children face considerable stress and that teacher creativity is stifled by too much testing.
Less than 15 percent of Texas teachers and 30 percent of parents think the TAKS accurately measures student learning or increases the quality of the educational system, according to a report released in 2006 by University of Texas research associate Edward Fuller.
The study, which involved a phone survey of 1,000 randomly selected teachers and parents, was paid for by the Association of Texas Professional Educators and shows "fairly negative" views about the test, Fuller said. The survey has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.
This year's TAKS, administered in Texas since 2003, will begin Tuesday.
"It's not that they don't want any testing; they want this information, but they want it at the beginning of the year to use as a diagnostic tool," Fuller said. "What really came across is that people are starting to think, maybe the pendulum has just swung too far.
"And it has resulted in a strong feeling that it's just not having a positive effect on the Texas educational system," Fuller said.
Some politicians seem to have taken note.
In November, high-stakes testing gained a new level of political prominence when it became a potent issue in several gubernatorial races across the country, including in Florida, Ohio and Texas.
With President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act up for reauthorization this year, the debate has continued.
In Texas, where accountability standards are tougher than those required by No Child Left Behind, the backlash is being reflected by state lawmakers this legislative session.
Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, is planning to file a bill that would replace the TAKS with end-of-course exams, which she says would allow more in-depth exploration of subject matter.
According to Fuller, about 45 percent of teachers and parents suggested replacing the TAKS with end-of-course exams.
"This type of assessment also provides teachers and districts a better understanding of a student's grasp of a particular subject, and it tests students' knowledge on a topic in close proximity to the time it was taught," Shapiro said.
For now, as schools continue to prepare for the upcoming TAKS, teachers are feeling the pressure.
Fuller said his study found that about 60 percent of teachers and parents feel that because of the TAKS, teachers are teaching students to become test-takers rather than critical thinkers.
A majority of those surveyed expected the dropout rate to increase because passing the test is a condition of graduation.
In Austin, TAKS troubles kept more than 400 seniors from donning a cap and gown in May; by August, about 320 still hadn't passed the exam.
Parents say they and their students are feeling the pressure as well, particularly as certain sanctions for not meeting standards are beginning to hit home.
Amarillo parent Chantelle Heiskell started the group Oppose TAKS — Organization of Proud Parents Opposing State Enforced TAKS — in 2005 after her daughter's first experience with the exams in fifth grade.
"You're watching your child deteriorate before your eyes," Heiskell said. "There's no possible way that their ability can be measured, because they're so worried they're going to fail. The shame that accompanies that is overwhelming, and it doesn't matter if you're a third-grader or 12th-grader."
Heiskell's group tries to step up the pressure on lawmakers by sending letters and organizing protests.
She said she's somewhat encouraged by the consideration of end-of-course exams.
"I don't know if that would be better or worse," Heiskell said. "Just to get TAKS out of the schools would be a step up, I would think."
At recent forums, Austin Superintendent Pat Forgione's proposed closure of Webb Middle School because of three consecutive years of low test scores drew an angry response from parents.
David Delgado, the school's PTA president, said the proposal has made students more anxious this spring.
"I'm pretty sure they are under pressure," said Delgado, whose son is a sixth-grader at Webb. "They're hearing: 'The school's going to close. The school's going to close.' "
Whether Texas will see any change is unclear, Fuller said.
He pointed to the outcry that erupted when Anderson High in Northwest Austin failed to meet federal standards.
Austin was able to successfully appeal the rating, but as standards continue to increase, Fuller said, reform will depend not just on the number of people who show opposition to high-stakes testing, but who.
"You look at the outcry from (the Anderson) community, and if that starts happening more and more, those are the parents that have the influence to make the political change," he said.
Austin school district officials offered the following tips to help students prepare for test day.
•Children should get adequate rest the night before a test. The National Sleep Foundation (www.sleepfoundation.org) recommends nine to 11 hours of sleep.
•A healthy breakfast helps children focus. Breakfast is available at every Austin school.
•Attendance on test dates is critical. The Texas Education Agency requires a test participation rate of 95 percent for a school to be in compliance with Texas' accountability system.
TAKS testing set to start
The Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills is given each spring; this year's schedule continues through April. More dates are listed inside.
Grade 3 reading*
Grade 4 writing
Grade 5 reading*
Grade 7 writing
Grade 9 reading
Grade 10 English language arts
Grade 11 English language arts**
April testing dates
Grade 5 math*
Grades 3, 4, 6-8, 10 math
Grades 4, 6-8 reading
Grade 11 math**
Grade 5, 8, 10, science
Grade 11 science**
Grade 9 math
Grade 8, 10 social studies
Grade 11 social studies**
* Must pass to be promoted to the next grade
** Must pass to graduate
Find this article at: