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Published in Print: May 12, 2004, as Move to End Texas Tests Comes as a Surprise

Move to End Texas Tests Comes as a Surprise

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Texas lawmakers wrestling to come up with a new state aid system for schools have added another task to their ambitious to-do list: overhaul the state’s assessment program.

The budget bill that passed the state House last week during a special session of the legislature included a provision to scrap the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, or TAKS, which was implemented just last year.

Instead, students would take 13 end-of-course exams, four of which would be in science, and three each in mathematics, English, and social studies.

To graduate from high school, students would need to pass at least two exams in each of the four subjects.

Those exams would be similar to the assessments that were given under the previous state testing program, called the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills, or TAAS, which the state had used for 12 years.

The TAKS tests are more closely aligned with the state curriculum than was the TAAS, according to Debbie Graves-Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency.

Still, the newer tests garnered protests last spring because some educators and others said the questions were too hard. Nearly half of all juniors in the state failed at least one portion of the test last year. This year’s results have not yet been released.

The budget bill, which passed the House by a vote of 75-68 on May 5, also includes a mandate that all students in 8th, 10th and 12th grades take the SAT or ACT college- entrance exam. The bill was before the Senate late last week. Lawmakers "are trying to do everything in this one bill," Ms. Grave-Ratcliffe said.

She added: "We’ve never managed to do a school finance plan in one special session. It has usually taken the regular session, and then a couple of special sessions."

Vol. 23, Issue 36, Page 24

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