TAKS Test Changes

Although it's only been around since 2001, the standardized TAKS test being given at schools across Texas this week could soon be a thing of the past for high school students. As Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports, there is growing momentum among lawmakers in Austin to do away with the test and replace it with what are known as "end of course" exams.

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It hasn't been an easy go for the TAKS test since it was introduced a few years ago, with a wide array of critics, from teachers to parents to students, who say the test has taken over the curriculum in the classroom and has done more harm than good. Now lawmakers, like State Senator Kel Seliger of Amarillo, have joined the chorus and have introduced legislation that would transition from TAKS exams to standardized end of course testing. Seliger has filed Senate Bill 379 that would make the change for high school students first.

"No single end of course exam is going to be a make or break exam. The students will be tested on what they're taking right now which means lets say you're taking world history. That exam will be taught from the recommended curriculum. There will be a state standard test so that every student will take the same test, tested the same way on the same material. But it will be on the material that is being taught right now."

Under the TAKS system, students are tested for cumulative knowledge, which often includes coursework covered in previous school years. Seliger says that doesn't make sense.

"This year's teacher say in algebra 2, is going to be held accountable for last year's geometry, which he or she is not teaching. That's not a good system of accountability. Teachers ought to be accountable for what they are teaching."

A similar companion bill in the works between State Senator Florence Shapiro of Angleton and Representative Rob Eissler of The Woodlands would also do away with the TAKS for the upper grades. Eissler is the chair of the Public Education Committee in the House.

"We need to define our goals and then go after them and I think the TAKS test is probably, it covers the gamut and it's such high stakes, I think there's a fear of it that gee, maybe we didn't emphasize this section and this is what cost us, because not only does it cost the student and the accountability, it costs the school and the school district."

Unlike many issues in Austin, there doesn't seem to be much opposition for retiring the TAKS test and replacing it with end of course exams. The Houston School District has joined 31 other districts who agree a change is needed and are developing a position on how end of course testing should proceed. This is HISD's director of government relations Rebecca Flores.

"I think the general idea of end of course testing, you will find wide agreement on that, but as we're starting to talk about what exactly and how the end of course testing will be implemented, that's when you're going have some divergent views."

Costs involved in the transition could preclude students in grades 3-8 from the move to end of course exams right away, but Flores and others say that could eventually happen.

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