Legislature votes to end TAKS in high school
Students would be required to average passing scores on end-of-course tests.
By Jason Embry
Sunday, May 27, 2007
The Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills would vanish from high schools in four years, replaced by a series of end-of-course exams, under legislation on its way to Gov. Rick Perry.
In order to graduate, students would have to average passing scores on their end-of-course tests in each of four subjects: math, language arts, reading and science. Each test also would account for 15 percent of a student's final grade in a class.
Key lawmakers have argued that end-of-course tests provide a quicker, more thorough assessment of what students learn in their classes. The TAKS measures some material that students learned a year or two earlier.
Lawmakers also hope the testing change will show that they're sensitive to widespread concerns among parents and teachers that the TAKS looms too large in Texas schools.
Under the new tests, a "student can concentrate on one test at a time, study one course at a time, and it's recent," said House Public Education Committee Chairman Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands. "The teacher is only responsible for his or her course material."
Schools would continue to give the TAKS in grades three through eight.
By calling for an average passing grade in each of the four subjects, the state would allow students to fail a test and still graduate on time. But students could not count a test if they score below 60.
Students are now required to pass all four sections of the 11th-grade TAKS to graduate.
That's proved to be a high hurdle: The Texas Education Agency reported this month that about 16 percent of Texas students who took the 11th-grade test in spring 2006 still had not passed, despite multiple chances to do so.
The new graduation requirements and testing plan would take effect with students who enter the ninth grade in fall 2011. By then, the state intends to develop a new system of rating schools to match the testing changes.
The legislation also says no grade level will be allowed to spend more than 10 percent of its time on districtwide standardized tests, including TAKS practice.
The testing limit would not apply to quizzes or tests developed by an individual teacher or school.
Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, said, "We're going to make sure there's not too much testing anymore."
Legislation headed to Gov. Rick Perry would drop the high school TAKS tests in favor of end-of-course exams in the following subjects:
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May 26, 2007 7:59 PM
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COMPROMISE ON END-OF-COURSE EXAM BILL OFFERS HYBRID VEHICLE
Provision for new accountability system is maintained without sunset date.
The meeting between the House and Senate versions of the end-of-course exam bill – intended to phase out the current exit-level Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills – has ended up being neither House-heavy nor Senate-heavy but a hybrid of both chambers.
Sponsor Sen. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) said the TAKS test had outlived its welcome, adding that a decision to end the test did not mean an end to accountability for both students and schools.
"We will still have standards and expectations," Shapiro said. "In some ways, these tests will be even more rigorous assessments of what a student has learned."
Both House and Senate signed off on a conference report on Senate Bill 1031 tonight -- a one-page summary
Assuming you are the parent of an incoming high school freshman in 2011, these would be your child’s requirements to graduate from a Texas high school:
First, your child would take a college readiness diagnostic assessment in both 8th and 10th grades. Your child may choose to take a college entrance exam in the 11th grade –likely to be either the SAT or ACT – at state expense.
End-of-course tests would apply only to the high school grades, unless your child is taking an advanced course such as Algebra I in his eighth-grade year. Once your child enters high school – and if he has chosen to pursue the recommended or advanced high diploma -- you would expect him to take three tests a year. These requirements would more closely mirror the state’s new 4x4 curriculum, which would require most high school students to take both four years of math and four years of science.
Test scores would be cumulative in each subject area. For instance, your child would have to make a combined score 210 on his three English tests to be considered proficient. If he scores lower than a 60 on any test, his score is scratched and he will have to retake the test until he makes at least a 60.
If your child has chosen a basic diploma, he would take only two years of science and be required to reach a cumulative science score of 140 to graduate high school.
What if your child’s score falls below the 210 threshold score in any subject area at the end of his junior year of high school? That would be what is being called a “score debt.”
The compromise on SB 1031 borrows an idea from a bill by Rep. Helen Giddings (D-Dallas). Your child would be required to take a senior level college-preparatory course in the deficit subject area. The end-of-year test in that course would be weighed between 0 and 40 points, and those points would be added to the cumulative score.
If you measured your child’s future tests against the current exit-level Texas Assessment Knowledge and Skills, you should expect to see the same rigor in English and social studies and tougher standards in math and science. All students under the 4x4 plan will be required to take Biology, Chemistry and Physics and be tested in those subjects. Because end-of-course tests are more expansive, and required at the end of each school year, the tests should offer a more complete review of each course.
You also can expect your child’s end-of-course test to count toward 15 percent of the child’s overall grade in the course. Adding that caveat guarantees that students take each and every test seriously, since it can make at least one grade level difference in a class.
The end-of-course tests also would have one more dimension to them. Instead of aiming for proficiency – simply testing against the lowest common denominator – the tests also would include a number of questions that will be known as “depth finders.” These questions, which are not be counted against a student’s score, would determine whether the student rises above the average and might be capable of advance or AP caliber coursework.
The SB 1031 compromise also maintains the review of the state’s accountability system, but instead of a sunset date, a new system is mandated in 2011, the same year as the new set of tests would begin. The goal would be to put the initial parameters of this new system – which would include how a school and district’s rating is measured against the end-of-course tests – in 2009, with implementation in 2011.
The accountability system also would include a measurement of college readiness. The current testing system has been criticized for its “lowest common denominator” approach. Under the new system, it would be clear which students met the minimum standards and which students meet the testing tally for college readiness. The bill also requires that tests in all grades be capable of measuring improvement across grade levels.
Safeguards and criminal penalties to maintain the integrity of the testing system – placed in the original bill – remain in the compromise.
ã Copyright May 26, 2007 by Harvey Kronberg, www.quorumreport.com, All rights are reserved