Tuesday, March 20, 2007

End of Course Exams

I've learned that voters need to go beyond newspapers to understand issues. I was interviewed recently by a local newpaper and I was misquoted twice.

Here's what I said: "I know the TAKS test intimately because I've administered them and and looked at them." The newspaper said I "... looked at time."

I believe many people who are against the TAKS tests have never looked at them. Most of the complaints I have heard about the TAKS tests are inaccurate or untrue. For a middle class suburb like Plano the TAKS test is no big deal. It's a given that the pass rate in most schools is close to 100 percent. The TAKS tests do not diminish our children's education.

The TAKS tests are good for Plano because they are objective measures demonstrating achievement. We like to achieve. If your kids are in sports you know they want to win and do not want to lose. Even when the children are very young and there are no official scores, the children keep score. There is absolutely no good reason for parents in Plano to have a negative attitude towards the TAKS tests.

When you hear your principal say "100 percent of your kids passed, 70 percent were commended, and 40 percent had perfect scores," that gives you a good feeling.

It is the parents and administrators in failing districts who have a legitimate reason to eliminate the test, but to replace the TAKS with yet another state mandated test is absurd. New tests only postpone dealing with failure.

There is nothing wrong with the TAKS tests. They are doing what they are supposed to be doing, measuring the progess schools make in teaching the TEKS, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, which are the state mandated curriculum.

There is much wrong, however, with spending excessive time and resources preparing teachers and children to well on the TAKS tests because the TAKS are a measure of failure, not a measure of success. There is much wrong with thinking good TAKS scores indicate a good education. There is much wrong with reducing cultural content in education, like Shakespeare or Roman history, to make more time for TAKS preparation.

The TAKS test in itself is not bad, but its impact on education is likely to be bad or ineffective, ineffective because the State of Texas has no idea how to fix schools that consistently fail the TAKS test.

If Texas cannot fix the problems associated with the TAKS test, changing to "end of course" exams will change the test, put money into the pockets of testing companies, but will bring along all the unsolved problems from TAKS testing to end of course exam testing -- a futile waste of money.

Did you know that when the British company Pearson purchased an American testing company they paid billions of dollars? Companies are getting rich writing tests. The only purpose to replace the TAKS with yet another test is to further enrich the test writing companies.

Consider our history of testing. First we had end of course exams. They were considered inadequate. Next came the TAAS tests. They were considered too easy. Next came the TAKS test. I have not heard any complaint against them that sounds accurate. The state legislature wants to return to end of course exams. That's going full circle!!!!

Have you heard of the myth of Sisyphus? As soon as he seems done with a chore, everything becomes undone and he has to do it again, in an unending cycle of futile labor. If we replace the TAKS with yet another test, that is what we are signing up for: unending cycle of futile testing.

I say, "Keep the TAKS or get the testing off our backs!"

If you want to get rid of the TAKS, then get rid of state mandated testing!!

I believe we should keep the TAKS and focus on efforts to help failing schools. We should also look forward to a new Texas rennaissance fueled by better education. Education is not only about measuring and punishing failure.

The newspaper misquoted me on this, saying "We should stick with the TAKS or change the broken schools." Does this misquote convey my views? No. This is why voters need to go beyond newspapers to understand what's going on around them.


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