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A Teacher's Take on TAKS

I taught junior high last year, and one thing I noticed straight away was students' day-to-day inconsistency in performance. One day they would blow you away with their brilliance, and the next, act like preschoolers with no rhyme or reason. I saw how difficult it is for the TAKS Test and standardized testing to accurately gauge performance. How are students going to be fairly gauged when one day's performance means being held back or not graduating from high school?

Concerned about the teachers losing their jobs and schools closing down due to poor test scores, I asked my students, "How are you feeling about the TAKS test tomorrow?" With all that was at stake, the students weren't that concerned. They either didn't care because they always do well on it or they didn't care because they always fail at it. Despite all the pressure from the government, from the community, the district, and administrators, the people who hold the future to all of this didn't seem to be taking the TAKS test seriously.

Schools do whatever they can to gain an edge on getting students prepared for the TAKS test. Districts purchase curricula that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. There are benchmark tests and booklets. Every day students are reminded about the big test. One teacher, however, found success on the TAKS test by going about it a different way.

"I did not harp on the test, or make it a huge deal throughout the school year," former Valley Mills 8th Grade Science teacher Lisa Rose said. "I feel that there is too much emphasis on the TAKS test, and it is weighted too heavily to determine true academic achievement."

Rose was a first year teacher when 93% of her students made passing scores. She utilized study guides and grouped her students to help them.

"In order for our district to prepare students for the TAKS test, we conducted benchmarking testing for all grades and content areas 3rd grade and up," Rose said. "I assessed all of the students who needed 'remedial' assistance. With these students, I worked before and after school on a rotating schedule for 8 weeks prior to the test. I purchased [a study program] to use as a means of review. This program is correlated to the TAKS and provided a good format for question/answer that the students could work on individually. I was able to view the students' progress and tutor individually in areas where they were weak or had misconceptions."

40% of her students needed that remedial help. The rest of her students were given pre-tests from her own questions that she generated from previous 5th and 10th grade Science TAKS tests that were released. She would do review questions, and sponge activities on the overhead.

While she was successful, Rose knows there are flaws in standardized testing like the TAKS.

"There are problems to consider such as students with test anxiety, limited English (students might understand the concepts, but not be on [a high enough] reading level to succeed) and special education students," Rose said. "One major flaw with the TAKS tests is they they all test reading ability and comprehension to some extent. It doesn't make sense to have a math test with a lot of word questions. Students that are poor readers will invariably have difficulty with these questions, not because of lack of content mastery, but because of the challenge of figuring out what is being asked in the question."


No Child Left Behind: The Football Version

1. All teams must make the state playoffs, and all must win the championship. If a team does not win the championship, they will be on probation until they are the champions, and coaches will be held accountable.

2. All kids will be expected to have the same football skills at the same time and in the same conditions. No exceptions will be made for interest in football, a desire to perform athletically, or genetic abilities or disabilities. ALL KIDS WILL PLAY FOOTBALL AT A PROFICIENT LEVEL.

3. Talented players will be asked to work out on their own without instruction. This is because the coaches will be using all their instructional time with the athletes who aren't interested in football, have limited athletic ability or whose parents don't like football.

4. Games will be played year round, but statistics will only be kept in 4th, 8th and 11th games.

This will create a New Age of sports where every school is expected to have the same level of talent and all teams will reach the same minimal goals.

If no child gets ahead, then no child will be left behind.


This idea that all of the students should be at the same skill level is more Communist than anything Karl Marx ever said. It is against the law to group students based on ability except for AP classes. Therefore, teachers have to water down the curriculum because they have the smartest kids in the same class as ones with special needs. When this happens, no one is getting their needs met. Some students are going to have an edge, whether it be more supportive parents, better teachers, or more life experience.

An alternative approach would be to score students based on improvement.

"I believe that we need to have some sort of system in place that tests the level of understanding of students as they progress in their education," Rose said.

What has happened as America's education has slipped globally is that the system has made classes more difficult than they were. I saw things in my sixth graders' math book that I didn't learn until I had a driver's license. Most of the high school TAKS questions that students must pass to graduate high school would give many adults problems — maybe even the people who pass laws like No Child Left Behind.

"I don't think that most lawmakers could pass all of the exit level tests," Rose said. "I know that some of the information that I learned in high school is lost knowledge to me now."

What does that say about our educational system? That it's all facts and trivia to be retained and then released once it's been graded?

"I think that a major problem within our system is a discrepancy about what a 'good education' is. Why do children go to school for 13 years, and what are they to do while they are there? Is the goal to cram facts in their brains or to teach them to reason and think?" Rose said.

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Great 'insider' article

As somebody who was in both special education and AP classes, I received a unique personal perspective on public education.

I understand the motivation behind adopting these programs (what community wouldn't want to ensure their kids are learning?).

However, I also realize their structure undercuts the educational realities of having kids of different abilities in the same school and classroom.

On TAKS

I remember taking standardized tests when I was in school, but it seemed like those didn't break everyone associated with them. Since I'm not in school and not teaching my scope of reference for what the TAKS exactly is remains pretty narrow, but again, it seems to work less than the old ones did.

It was CAT, and TASP, and I can't remember what the other one was.

Hazy memories

I seem to recall taking the COGAT and the Iowa Test (ITBS) as well. I don't know if those were state mandated or if my school district was doing something wacky; I was pretty much too young to care who mandated the tests at the time, I think.

Wow

I don't remember either of those.

That's a lot of tests

We only took one test every year - the ERBs. But we were never held back if we scored poorly on the test.

It's a shame. Teachers seem to be judged on their ability to teach students to take a test rather than the actual progress their students make in their studies.

You went to Catholic school.

You went to Catholic school. lol

Not true!

My grade school was Episcopalian.

TAKS

James g smith
One topic(at least) that has been omitted from the TAKS discussion is the uneven playing field for low income schools who receive Title I funds from the federal government. It is quite common for Title I schools to experience "mobility rates" of 40% or more. That is, of a nominal 600 students in a school at the beginning of the school year, 240 of those students will not be in that school at the end of the school year. How do you rate a teacher with a transient classroom?
Many students of low income families(even homeless)come to school every day with personal "baggage"from family environments. Some fall asleep during tests because of late night baby sitting of sibling toddlers. Others are stressed by family disputes or a jailed parent. if bad personal "baggage" falls on a test day, so be it. Try a re-test later. Meanwhile the stress of the failure heightens the anxiety for the retest;add language difficulties, etc..
How do you score 8th grade science when the students were last tested n the 5th grade? How do you apportion teacher credit for the scores in any grade when the knowledge has been imparted and accumulated from teachers in previous grades?
I am not an educator. My experience is 3 years of volunteer mentoring in a low performang Title I elementary school where CIS and thousands of volunteer hours are expended routinely.

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