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New Texas Test Will Replace Exam for Education Majors

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A new test required for all students entering state colleges and universities in Texas will replace the state's controversial examination for prospective education majors.

The change--which takes effect in 1989--"could have some impact" on a federal lawsuit challenging the existing Pre-Professional Skills Test, according to Nolan Wood, director of the Texas Education Agency's division of teacher assessment.

Mr. Wood declined last week to speculate on what the impact might be, noting that the two sides are currently in negotiations.

Civil-rights groups have charged in the suit that the ppst--first administered in 1984 to college freshmen and sophomores intending to enter teacher-training programs--4discriminates against members of minority groups.

The case is scheduled to go to trial this spring.

Norma V. Cantu, director of education programs for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said her organization is analyzing the new test to determine whether it is discriminatory.

"Our concern is that if the test has the same effect as the ppst, it would have a disastrous impact on minority sophomores," she said, "except that it would affect all sophomores, not just those going into education."

College students will be required to pass the new Texas Academic Skills Program test before they can become eligible to begin their junior year.

In 1985, a federal district judge is8sued a temporary injunction barring administration of the similar test used for admission to education programs. He argued that evidence "strongly suggested" that the state intended to discriminate against minority students, whose failure rates on the ppst were much higher than those of white students. (See Education Week, Sept. 4, 1985.)

The injunction was overturned in 1986.

State officials will send notices this spring to 400,000 college-bound high-school students alerting them that the tasp exam will be required of all students entering state colleges in the fall of 1989.

The test was mandated by the legislature last year as part of an effort to ensure that all prospective college students have the skills necessary for postsecondary work.

According to Mr. Wood, new freshmen at the state's public colleges will have to take the 150-question test of reading, writing, and mathematics skills immediately after they arrive on campus. Those who score below a certain level will be required to take remedial coursework.

The scores will also be submitted to students' school districts, so that administrators can analyze their graduates' performance levels.

Students will be allowed to take the exam up to five times a year.

Unlike similar "rising junior" exams in other states, such as Florida and Tennessee, the Texas test ties the scores directly to remediation, Mr. Wood said.

"In other states, if students are lacking skills, they are in trouble," he said. "We catch them right at the first."

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