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TAKS Issue

Michigan has its Michigan Educational Assessment Program, or MEAP (rhymes with "weep"). Washington state sits down to the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, or WASL (think tipsy Yuletide revelers). And Maryland, poor Maryland, has to put up with tests known by the acronym MSPAP (pronounced "miz-pap"), for Maryland School Performance Assessment Program.

By comparison, the new name for the next generation of Texas state tests could be worse. Starting in 2003, the current TAAS (for Texas Assessment of Academic Skills) will be replaced by the TAKS (for Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills).

TAKS as in "tacks." Or as in "tax."

Texas officials say they have been mulling a new name for months while making do with "TAAS II." That was the interim moniker for the expanded set of state tests that will be linked to the tougher curriculum standards approved in 1997.

The standards are dubbed the TEKS, for Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. Their content is being gradually incorporated into the Texas tests. By 2003 the process is expected to be complete, and new tests—in grades 5, 7, 9, 10, and 11—are set to be added to the mix.

Employees of the Texas Education Agency and educators at conferences throughout the state were asked to suggest a new name, said Ann Smisko, an associate state commissioner of schools. It's been the Texas tradition to signal major changes in the test battery with a new appellation, she said, recounting the decades-long evolution of TABS (Texas Assessment of Basic Skills) to TEAMS (Texas Education Assessment of Minimum Skills) to TAAS.

The final pick was made by Commissioner of Education Jim Nelson, who might now have to live with the sobriquet TAKS Man. Mr. Nelson chose TAKS over TASK, the Texas Assessment of Skills and Knowledge, because "knowledge and skills" is the phrase used for the standards and reversing the two nouns might get confusing, Ms. Smisko said.

Besides, she added, "TASK is sort of negative."

—Bess Keller

Vol. 20, Issue 42, Page 22

Published in Print: July 11, 2001, as State Journal

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