Friday, March 02, 2007

A Good Start

I was happy to read this story in the paper this morning: TAKS Exit Exam May Be Replaced:
The state's 1.25 million high school students would have to pass a series of new end-of-course exams to graduate instead of the current TAKS tests under legislation filed Thursday by the leaders of the House and Senate education committees.

The measures would eliminate the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills graduation test – which has been in use only three years – as well as two other TAKS tests administered in the ninth and 10th grades.
Can anybody say amen?

Leading the way is state Senator Florence Shapiro of Plano, who had this to say about the test:
"We can all agree that the TAKS test has outlived its welcome."

"[...]"This ensures that no Texas student will take a course in name only because we will assess the rigorous content we expect students to learn," Ms. Shapiro said. "End-of-course exams will allow a more in-depth study of a particular subject, as well as provide a more timely assessment of a student's grasp of that subject."
As I've said before (most recently here), the TAKS has turned into a gargantuan disaster for students and teachers alike, gobbing up way too much instruction time while prompting (often justified) accusations that teachers have to "teach to the test" instead of actually making sure that the students learn something about the subject being taught. And what have we gotten from all this? Students who may be good test takers, but who haven't really learned anything. And so much for critical thinking skills, creativity, and so on.

There's one other benefit: If the end-of-course exam format is used, the students will actually be tested on the material they have just learned (what a concept!) instead of something from maybe as far back as two years earlier (just yesterday, a high school junior was lamenting the fact that she would have to take the science TAKS next month; this test is based on biology, which is usually taken during the freshman year). Also, by having the EOC tests count as part of the semester grade (15%, according to this plan), the possible discrepancy between school grades and exit testing (in other words, the situation where someone could pass all coursework but flunk the TAKS and thus not get a diploma) would be minimized.

This sounds like a great idea to me, and I hope it passes handily. I'd love to see it changed at the lower levels as well (when I heard a story about third-graders getting stressed over the TAKS, that was one such story too many), but this will be a good way to get the ball rolling.

It's a dog's life, part 1: There were probably some extra Milk-Bones on tap for a Wisconsin dog named Dude, who saved his owner from being attacked by a black bear.

It's a dog's life, part 2: An attorney in Ohio is challenging the authority of the town's police chief; he claims that the chief has his college degree from a questionable online school that also awarded a degree to the city's police dog. (He's hoping to call the dog as an exhibit in the trial.)

It's a dog's life, part 3: I'd love to see them enforce this, but the city of Clifton, New Jersey has proposed an ordinance regulating how long dogs can bark before their owners would be fined. What are they going to use to measure this...a barking meter? *rim shot*


Gary P. said...

Another downside to the TAKS that may not have been mentioned here yet.... not only is there all the instruction time that gets used for hype (TAKS pep rallies in elementary school, believe it or not...), practice tests, pretests, sample tests, etc before the test. But once the test is done, literally nothing goes on for the rest of the week. My daughter had her 5th grade TAKS test on a recent Tuesday.

Wednesday was "Bring Your Favorite Board Game to School" and they sat around and played games all day.

Thursday was a "field trip" to the movie Bridge to Terebithia.

Friday was some other theme that had nothing to do with any kind of instruction.

I'm sure my daughter's school isn't alone in that regard either.

Kev said...

You're right, Gary. My schools did one of the TAKS tests last Tuesday as well. It worked out nicely for the high school seniors, who got to enjoy National Pancake Day during the time off (OK, I'll fess up--I did too).

But this week, as a reward for taking the test, one of my middle schools let its entire seventh grade go bowling for four hours one day this week. That's two missed instructional days for them in two weeks, in case you're keeping score at home (I am).