Texas has been hailed as a beacon state for public school accountability, and rightfully so. It is far ahead of most states in the rigor of student testing and holding school administrators accountable for results. The primary testing vehicle, the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS), although roundly criticized, was a major enhancement and a good start. It will be replaced by a new assessment test next year, the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills). As this transition is implemented, it behooves us to ensure that the new test is even more rigorous and demanding. Why? Because, in spite of recent improvement, Texas students still lag behind national norms. In addition, there is considerable evidence of a disconnect between TAAS scores and scores on national norm-referenced tests. For example, based on my analysis of the data, the reading scores for many elementary schools in Houston as measured by national norm-referenced tests do not at all correlate with the TAAS reading scores for the same groups of students. In other words, many schools whose third-graders scored well on the TAAS reading test are well below national average in vocabulary and comprehension. And, according to a study by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the same is true for Texas eighth-graders on the science test. The point here is that success on the TAAS does not necessarily equate to the success we want and deserve for our children. The new TAKS test has been touted as a significant improvement. Let’s hope so. The nation will be watching.
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