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October 22, 2008

About Ending TAKS

Let’s be realistic here – TAKS (for high school, anyway) is going to be dead in a couple of years. The Texas Legislature has already mandated its demise and replacement with End of Course exams actually tied to the content of the course in which they are given. But that does not mean that the following idea is a bad one.

Texas students in certain grades would no longer have to pass the state achievement test to be promoted under a new school accountability plan unveiled Tuesday by leaders of the House and Senate education committees.

The proposal would scuttle a requirement originally championed by former Gov. George W. Bush as a way to curtail the widespread practice of social promotion – automatically passing students regardless of achievement.

In addition, the new accountability plan would base annual school performance ratings on three years of test scores rather than the most recent year, allowing school districts and campuses to make up for a bad year of results with a couple of positive years.

Now let’s be honest – the no promotion rule has been ineffective for years due to an exception allowing school officials and parents to agree to promote a student who failed anyway, as well as provisions for special summer programs for such students in most districts. On the high school level, the only sanction was at graduation, so the promotion issue was non-existent.

So what, then, is there to like about this proposal? It is the three-year rule for evaluating schools and districts. Such a plan would be more reasonable in many instances, allowing a school to overcome a single bad year – especially when such years are based upon the performance of a handful of students in a sub-group. I once heard of a school being rated unacceptable because three children (all new to the district) failed a single test – all were members of the same minority group and had led to the school to be deemed as failing to provide a proper education to that minority group. Similarly, I already know that many schools and districts in this area will take a hit in the wake of Hurricane Ike – the lost school days and disruption to the lives of our students will likely hurt scores. Does a one-year “snapshot” this spring REALLY reflect on the job these districts and schools are doing?

Oh, and a note to Greg at Greg’s Opinion: It isn’t at all inconsistent to support state oversight of school districts because those districts are, in fact, a creature of the state itself and are therefore properly under such oversight. That differs from the case of federal oversight of the states, which constitutionally exist independent of and distinct from the federal government. So while one can argue about whether the current testing regime is a good one or not, it is not a case of the state intruding where it does not have any place going.





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