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By , Dallas, TX
I don’t think taking a test should decide if you are promoted. TAKS only captures performance from one day instead of an entire learning career. It’s just not an efficient way of evaluating a student’s potential.

President Bush instituted, “No Child Left Behind,” stating that all kids must pass a test to be sent to the next grade. Yet, 65% of fourth graders at Jefferson Elementary in Houston have failed the writing test. Millions of dollars was given to science and math to help eighth graders pass the exam. However, passing rates on science tests are still low.

Children with learning differences are more likely to fail the TAKS test than any other children. Modifications can be made for math, such as having the test read aloud, but none for reading. This seems to discriminate against children with dyslexia who have a documented reading disability. If you can’t read or struggle reading, it makes no sense to take a reading test.

Teachers spend too much time teaching for TAKS tests, and this time could be used to prepare kids for life in the real world. Teachers complain that they can’t teach creatively, or to the interests of their students because the children have to make a certain test score. More than 3 of 4 teachers say that TAKS isn’t an accurate measure of students’ skills. In a poll of 500 teacher and 500 parents, both sides agreed that some form of assessment is needed, but no one has the answer to what kind of test. In addition, more than 60% of the teachers polled believe that learning is minimized in favor of good test taking skills This is frustrating and exhausting for parents, teachers and students.

TAKS is designed to hold teachers and schools accountable and responsible for learning. Some people think that TAKS is the best way to see a student’s potential; however, it only demonstrates grade level progress. In North Carolina, they give a similar test called the ABC’s of Accountability. The scoring measures are similar, but instead of third graders being held to a reading standard, it is bumped back a year to the fourth grade. The test is given during the last three weeks of school and fourth graders must pass reading, math and writing to be promoted.
TAKS is not the best way of seeing if a student is capable or incapable of surviving in the “real world.” The scores are used to compare all children to a single standard without taking into account cultural or learning differences. In addition, the test cannot determine future success outside of school. In an effort to improve; however, now Texas is planning to institute the STAAR test in 2011-2012. It is designed to be even more rigorous than TAKS. Just as teachers, parents and students have “learned” how to take TAKS, now they will have to devote even more time trying to figure out how to blow the top off of a new test. It seems that the rules of the game have changed in the middle of the 2nd quarter, for these students.
Finally, testing is a necessary evil for school-aged children. Parents and administrators like to “know” what teachers are teaching, and TAKS is the way we judge how well they are doing their job. What the test doesn’t do is evaluate the student at various points during the year. It doesn’t take into account special interests and hard work that each student has about school. TAKS seems to be more of a waste of time and resources than an instrument of a student’s knowledge. Perhaps our legislators should design a test more like a portfolio collection. So they could get more of an accurate picture of a year of total learning, than a snapshot from one day’s worth of testing.

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