I live in the State of Texas. I graduated from a Texas school, as did my wife. We have 5 children that go to Texas schools. This thread is geared
towards my frustration with the TAKS testing that is given in all Texas schools, as well as my frustration with the way that I feel the schools have
let a great number of parents as well as students down.
First, a little background.
If you do not live in Texas, you may not know what TAKS is. TAKS is the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills standardized testing. It is used in
Texas primary and secondary schools to assess students' attainment of reading, writing, math, science, and social studies skills required under Texas
education standards. (1
This testing was actually part of the No Child Left Behind Act, and began in 2003. Students are tested and scored according to a set structure. Now,
this all sounds fine and good.....right up until you are actually having to participate in it. I am going to give you an example of my personal
experience with one of my kids in the Texas educational system, and this will be the crux of the post.
I have attended the open houses that are given at the schools for the children to get acquainted with their teachers, where their classes are, etc.
before school actually starts. Now, I have a teenager who really does not like school (go figure), and he has had some problems, but he has made it
through so far.
Now, I went to speak with his Science teacher at one of these meetings, and we began to talk about the curriculum and what they
would be doing throughout the year. When the teacher began to speak, I felt as if I were listening to a POW in a camp.....she had no enthusiasm, and
all she could talk about was that the TAKS schedule was going to be very grueling for the kids. So, I began to ask some questions. She pointed out
that the kids would only have a very short window of time to learn all the required material before the actual TAKS testing took place. I asked her,
"so what if my son has some type of difficulty with any of these tasks or learning assignments?" She promptly informed me that if he was not able to
grasp the material in the allotted time, that they would not be going back over the material and that he would more than likely have problems on the
TAKS test. So I said, "It almost sounds like he will be left behind", to which she politely replied, "we don't like to call it that".
So, in the above example, my son would not be afforded the opportunity to get help from the teacher, but she did say that he could get some remedial
help at a later date that had not been setup yet. Does anyone here see a problem with this? So, if my son could not get it, the burden of getting him
to extra classes (after school we found out) would be left up to the parents. The teacher actually told me that she did not have time to sit with
everyone that could not cut the mustard. Does that sound like being left behind to you?
Now, what really burns me up about this situation, is this. They were on my son for some of the most stupid crap all year long.....things like,
tucking his shirt in, or they felt like he needed a haircut, etc. Stupid meaningless trivial bull, that is what they cared more about during the year
than getting my son a better education. They did not have time to go back and teach him something if he did not grasp it, but man you just let him
come to school with one hair out of place or his shirt untucked! I see it every year. If the teachers worried about my kids education as much as they
worry about how he looks r what he wears, we would all be in better shape!
Now, here is what will really blow your mind. Individual school districts have the power to decide if students who do not pass the TAKS test will be
allowed to graduate with their class. Even the students who do walk across the stage do not receive a diploma if they have not passed the TAKS test;
they instead receive a certificate of completion (and most are not allowed to walk). Under current Texas educational law, students who have not passed
all four exit-level sections of the test are unable to receive their diploma. So, despite having completed thirteen years of education and receiving
the required credits, students who have yet to pass the TAKS test(s) are told they do not get to graduate. So essentially one test, (and even one
question on one test) can keep a student from receiving his/her diploma. These students have passed ALL
the classes, but still do not get to
graduate with their fellow students because they could not pass the TAKS test.
How many of you, or how many people did you know when you went to school that knew the material, but were terrible at tests? Now, I ask you.....would
that piss you off if it were your kid? Especially if you know that your child did the best that they could? I thought this would sum it up well
If the skills on the test were basic skills, I might be okay with this law, but these tests are tough. The exit-level science test requires
knowledge of Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. The math test requires knowledge of Algebra and Geometry. The English Language Arts test requires
reading and writing skills along with the intense ability to focus (it is really long). The exit-level Social Studies test requires the ability to
recall information learned from eighth grade through eleventh grade. I understand the need for today's youth to understand more than what I knew when
I went through school, but I do not believe that this assembly line, cookie-cutter approach is the answer. Yes, I want our students to graduate
knowing how to read and write, how to balance a check book, calculate a tip, understand how history affects current society, and understand basic
science. I would also like our students to be able to think critically, question and think for themselves so they do not follow blindly, work
effectively in collaborative groups, listen critically, articulate their thoughts well in front of an audience and be able to manage information and
validate sources. The TAKS test ensures none of this.
Unfortunately so many educators feel such pressure to prepare students for the TAKS test (with good reason) that they fail to ever demonstrate the
relevance of what they are teaching. They fail to teach the items within the curriculum that are useful outside of the walls of the school. So, we
have students who graduate and can solve quadratic equations, classify living organisms and distinguish between a plant and an animal cell but don’t
know how to budget money, complete a financial aid form, solve a real-world problem or think for themselves.
Something else that is disturbing is this:
- Depending on how well a school district does as a whole on the TAKS testing, is one of the deciding factors as to how much money that district will
get from the state
- Also, in some district, the teachers bonus is based solely on the performance of their students during the TAKS testing
I am really not up to speed as to what is going on throughout the rest of the country, maybe my fellow ATSer's can fill me in.
In closing, I am just wondering what the rest of you think of the educational system in this country right now as a whole. I myself am not happy by
what I am seeing in my area.