Difficulty of TAKS is below average, study says
09:47 PM CDT on Wednesday, October 3, 2007
By TERRENCE STUTZ / The Dallas Morning News
AUSTIN – Tests used by Texas and other states to measure students' academic progress have created a false impression of success – particularly in reading and in elementary grades – according to a new study by a conservative think tank that evaluated testing programs in 26 states.
The study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute found that the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, or TAKS, is below average in terms of difficulty, although the level of difficulty on the test increased from 2003 to 2006 – the two testing years that were examined by researchers.
"Texas is one of the few states in this study whose cut scores [minimum required proficiency levels] have become more challenging over time. Even so, the state's expectations are not consistent from one grade to the next and policymakers should consider more closely calibrating them to ensure equivalent difficulty at all grades," the study said.
Researchers for the Fordham Institute and the Northwest Evaluation Association, which co-sponsored the study, said that Texas' "cutoff scores" for math and reading proficiency in most grades are below the median level of difficulty for the 26 states in the study.
Chester E. Finn, president of the institute who served as assistant secretary of education in the Reagan administration, said the study highlights a central flaw in the No Child Left Behind Act – allowing states to set their own definition of what constitutes proficiency on their state tests.