Eye on Education: Testing the Tests

By: Ryan Loyd Email
By: Ryan Loyd Email

SHERMAN, Tex. -- Classrooms are bustling with activity. Students are thinking about their upcoming summer vacations. But just a few weeks ago, they were busy thinking about tests.

The Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) is one of the standardized tests students must face. For elementary school-aged children, the test means graduating to the next grade level. For high school students, the stakes are even higher and determine whether a student walks the stage at graduation time.

The pressure isn't only intense for students. Teachers also feel that their reputation is based on how their students perform. Karla Skaggs, an elementary school teacher at Hyde Park Elementary in Denison, says, "I understand there is a need for a test... I want them to do their best."

Standardized tests have long been a way for districts to measure what students know. They haven't always been popular. But because of growing concerns and a momentum of opinions to change the course of testing, TAKS testing will now be phased out until 2011. At that time, high school students will take end-of-course exams instead of TAKS.

Texas lawmakers decided to make a change when they met for the 80th Legislative Session. District 62 Representative Larry Phillips (R-Sherman) helped bring this legislation to the forefront, after speaking with many parents, school leaders, and students about the pressure that standardized testing places on students.

"We have to have standards," he said. "But when it becomes just about the test, it changes what school is all about."

This is an historic move, and will most likely affect how your children are taught. Many parents, like Sherman resident Robert Aranson, believe teachers teach based on the test. But Aranson thinks by the time his 4th grader gets to high school, she'll be under much less pressure to perform well. Instead, he says, she'll flourish without the stress. "It will be a nice change," Aranson said.

Denison ISD school leaders are all for the change. Testing coordinator Robert Mears says, "You have to see [how] our kids are doing." But Mears also says schools cannot be compared to one another. Each district needs to be measured by itself. "You have to compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges."

Mears is convinced, along with Rep. Phillips, that the new way of testing will put the focus back on teaching students, rather than teaching to a test.

"If we're doing what we're supposed to be doing from day one, we shouldn't have to stop to teach to a test," Mears said. Rep. Phillips added, "People aren't concerned about accountability. It's just the focus of a test.

"It's not the only mark of what a student learns in the classroom," he said.

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  • by Anonymous on May 13, 2008 at 04:24 PM
    This means that the TAKS test will slowly be phased out and in 2011 the TAKS test will be gone, there will be a different test in its place. There will always be Some type of test, they will just do away with the TAKS test by 2011
  • by here Location: gone on May 13, 2008 at 12:52 PM
    I think the test are crazy if a child makes A and B all year and they take the taks test and the get all nervous because this determines whether the graduate or not well they will probably do worse I THINK ITS STUPBID GO BACK TO OLE SCHOOL.
  • by I'm with Mary on May 13, 2008 at 10:34 AM
    Yes. Please clarify. Do they take the TAKS until 2011? Or is it temporarily suspended until 2011? KXII please clarify.
  • by Mary Location: Sherman on May 13, 2008 at 09:56 AM
    TAKS testing will now be phased out until 2011. . .Does that mean they will still take the taks till 2011 or are they starting the end of course testing at the start of school next year and see how it goes till 2011 or what. Maybe I'm just not understanding what this means??
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