During a meeting of the Senate Education Committee on Oct. 4, 2006, TCTA testified about several issues under consideration, including testing, accountability and standards.

There appears to be a high level of interest among key legislators in eliminating TAKS at the high school level and using end-of-course exams instead.  Some reasons for this suggested change include reports that the TAKS exit-level test is not rigorous enough or a good measure of college readiness, and that the ability to take end-of-course exams in the senior year will help address what many see as a wasted senior year for many students.  Various experts have pointed out that the high school level TAKS tests do not have enough “stretch” to measure a student’s progress from year to year.  The ability to measure a student’s progress from year to year is seen as a more fair measure for purposes of accountability, since it focuses on student growth rather than just absolute attainment.  These same experts believe that end-of-course exams would better accomplish this purpose.

During the committee hearing, some of those testifying stated that the end-of-course exams should not be used for accountability or as an exit-level test.  Some urged that a test such as the ACT test should be used as the exit-level test, stating that it is a better measure of college readiness and includes more application of knowledge.

TCTA testified that our members were reticent about the idea of changing to a new test, not so much because of the end-of-course exams specifically, but because of concerns about how the tests would be implemented.  Particularly, we do not want to see an increase in the number of tests.  Our members feel that there is already too much testing and too much time spent on test preparation.  TCTA pointed out that the issue of so much time being devoted to test preparation was a natural result of attaching high-stakes consequences to the test and that eliminating the high-stakes consequences of these tests would take care of many of these problems.  In response, Sen. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano), chair of the Senate Education Committee, assured us that she did not want to add end-of-course exams on top of the TAKS test.

TCTA additionally pointed out that the use of EOCs might not meet the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which requires that states test students in particular subjects in particular years.  Additionally, if a student takes the Algebra I EOC in 7th or 8th grade, they should not be required to take the 7th or 8th grade TAKS test.  Finally, TCTA stated that the TAKS test has only been in existence since 2003, and when we switched from TAAS to TAKS it took 5 years for Texas high schools to get ready for that.  Accordingly, if we do change to EOC tests, we should allow a significant amount of time to prepare to do so and transition into the new testing program.

Regarding online testing, TCTA pointed out that there are still a great number of schools that do not have the infrastructure to support moving entirely to online testing, and that consideration should be given to having the proper infrastructure before moving to wholesale online testing.

TCTA also testified about the accountability system, stating that we should not establish arbitrary rating standards too far in advance; that the success of our current accountability system has been to use results from previous test administrations to inform the decision about where to set standards.  There must be a balance between setting standards so that they cause students to stretch but are not so high as to be unattainable.  

TCTA will continue to monitor this issue and to advocate for the views of our members about these topics in the upcoming legislative session.