The Texas state senate has passed a bill to replace the controversial high-stakes TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) test with up to 12 end-of-course tests. Students would have to earn a total of 840 out of 1200 possible points (70% average) on these twelve 100-point tests in order to graduate. Since the tests would be standardized, they would satisfy NCLB’s accountability requirements.
Educators have long complained that the TAKS requires students to recall material they learned years earlier, and reviewing this material cuts into instructional time. The end-of-course assessments will solve this problem, though some are concerned that having twelve tests will be an increased burden on students and instructional time.
The Houston Chronicle points out that, while students don’t have to do well on every test in order to graduate (since they just need to accumulate 840 points), having more tests will provide more granular information about their achievement in sub-strands of a specific course:
On the flip side, end-of-course tests could be more difficult for some students. An exit-level TAKS math test, for example, covers geometry and algebra, so students weak in one area still might be able to pass. But, with end-of-course exams, students would face a test dedicated exclusively to one subject, so they couldn’t hide their weaknesses.
“For a lot of people, taking a math test right after they’ve studied the concept is going to be easier, even if it’s got more questions, but for some it won’t be,” said Debbie Ratcliffe, spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency.
When Texas required end-of-course exams in the 1990s, passing rates weren’t very high, officials said.
The Houston school board plans to vote today on a resolution expressing general support for end-of-course exams.
“It does not necessarily reduce testing,” Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra said. “But it ensures that what is being tested is more comprehensive. What will be tested will be specifically the course that teacher just taught. It’s a much truer measure of what students actually studied.” link