Friday, March 02, 2007

Texas lawmakers want to replace TAKS test

Here's the link to the below-mentioned HB 2236 and SB 1031. It is good to tie the test to content offered in the semester/year that it is taught. My concern is that this doesn't eliminate the teaching to the test and narrowing of curricula that teachers complain about. I hear complaints from students that in many of their AP courses, all they do is test prep and this robs them of a good education. What we need to do is use the tests differently which in all fairness, these bills attempt to do. Authentic assessment within which tests are a part is still the way to go. Check out this link to the Nebraska assessment system because it implements a robust assessment system that they've had to get clearance from the DOE in order to do.


March 1, 2007, 9:12PM
Texas lawmakers want to replace TAKS test

Associated Press

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AUSTIN — Instead of one exit-level test, some state lawmakers want Texas high school students to pass 12 tests before they can get their diploma.

The exit-level Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills would be replaced with end-of-course exams in the core subject areas under the proposal filed today in the House by Republican Rep. Rob Eissler, who leads the House Public Education Committee.

The high-stakes nature of the TAKS has been lambasted by teachers and parents, who argue that too much classroom time is spent on preparing students for the test. Criticisms of the TAKS also emerged as a common campaign issue during last year's gubernatorial election.

Replacing the high school TAKS with end-of-course exams would ease some of the most common complaints about the test, Eissler said.

"End of course exams will allow teachers to focus on content and not simply 'teach to the test,' " Eissler said. "Teachers will be able to focus on the deep content of each course."

Proponents of the measure argue that classroom time would not have to be wasted reviewing material that students might have learned in a class taken previously.

That results in "undermining the number of learning days, the academic days that go into a school year and this new testing regimen should put the emphasis back on learning, not on testing," said Sen. Kel Seliger, an Amarillo Republican.

Teachers groups, which have been among the most vocal critics of the TAKS, offered a tepid response to the proposal.

"The one concern that we have with any new assessment system is that it does not take on the high-stakes end all, be all that the TAKS test evolved into," said Cindy Chapman, a high school teacher in White Face who also serves as the state president of the Association of Texas Professional Educators.

One of the teachers' complaints about the TAKS has been that bonus pay for teachers is tied to student performance on the test in some qualifying schools.

"I think we can all agree that the TAKS has outlived it's welcome," said Sen. Florence Shapiro, who filed the measure in the Senate. "Make no mistake: This does not in any way take away any accountability."

The proposal would be phased in over several years, starting with students who are in sixth grade this year.

Students would be able to retake the tests if their first score was unsatisfactory.

To graduate, students will have to score at least 70 percent cumulatively on the tests. A cumulative score means that students don't necessarily have to score above 70 on each of the 12 exams, as long as they score higher on others.

That differs from the TAKS, in which a failing grade on any portion automatically means failure.

In addition to the end-of-course exams, the sweeping legislation also would:

— Institute safeguards to prevent cheating on the tests after widespread discrepancies were identified last year;

— Direct school districts to be prepared to administer the tests online;

— Require eighth- and 10th-grade students to also take a college-readiness test such as the PSAT as a diagnostic gauge;

— Allow 11th-grade students to take a college entrance exam like the SAT or ACT at state expense.

The bills are House Bill 2236 and Senate Bill 1031.

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