Testing in Texas: An Overview
A GreatSchools guide to standardized tests
By GreatSchools Staff
Although test results are only one measure of student achievement, they have become increasingly important in assessing student learning. Beginning spring 2012, Texas will use State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) to replace the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS). For students grades 3-8, the STAAR program will assess the same subjects that are currently assessed on TAKS. For high school students, the 12 end-of-course (EOC) assessments (Algebra I, geometry, Algebra II, biology, chemistry, physics, English I, English II, English III, world geography, world history, and U.S. history) will replaced the grade-specific assessements.
Using test results and other criteria, Texas assigns schools and districts an Accountability Rating. High performing schools and districts can also receive the Gold Performance Acknowledgments (GPA) designation.
Although test results can be an indicator of what's happening in the classroom, they don't tell you everything about the quality of a school. Always look at more than one measure when judging school performance and visit in person before making any final determination.
The information provided on GreatSchools profiles is for the 2009-2010 school year.
Tests in Texas
Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS)
The TAKS tests the skills outlined in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) learning standards. The standards outline what students should learn in every grade in Texas.
Each spring, students in Texas take the TAKS tests in reading in grades 3 through 9; in writing in grades 4 and 7; in English language arts in grades 10 and 11; in mathematics in grades 3 through 11; in science in grades 5, 8, 10 and 11; and in social studies in grades 8, 10 and 11.
Special Education students who are receiving instruction according to TEKS standards but for whom the TAKS is inappropriate take either the TAKS-Modified (TAKS-M) or the TAKS-Alternate (TAKS-Alt).
Limited English proficient (LEP) students, in addition to taking the TAKS in Spanish, must take the Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System (TELPAS) assessments. The goal is to help students become English proficient and get them on track to take the TAKS in English. Students identified as limited English proficient (LEP) are permitted to take the TAKS in Spanish for up to three years. After that, those who are not ready to take the TAKS in English work closely with a grade-placement committee consisting of the school principal, their teacher and a parent to get on track.
Students in grades 3 through 10 who are classified as exempt from the TAKS on the basis of limited English proficiency take the math TAKS with language help under the Linguistically Accommodated Testing (LAT) initiative. Linguistic accommodations vary and can include the use of bilingual dictionaries to find definitions of difficult words and reading assistance, in which test administrators read aloud words or sentences from the test.
How are the tests scored?
TAKS results show the level of proficiency a student demonstrates in each of the subject areas tested. Students receive one of two ratings: met standard or commended performance. The goal is for all students to meet or exceed the state standard.
Which results are included on GreatSchools profiles?
Results for the English version of the TAKS are included on GreatSchools profiles. Results for the Spanish version of the TAKS are not included.
GreatSchools also displays subgroup results to show how different groups of students are scoring in comparison to the overall student population in a given grade and subject. These subgroups are identified by the Texas Education Agency; if there are a small number of students in a particular group in a school, data is not reported for that group.
Why do the test results matter?
TAKS results provide an indication of whether students are making progress toward mastery of state content standards. All students must pass the grade 3 TAKS in reading in order to be promoted to grade 4. Students have three opportunities to take the test: in March, April and July, and they receive remedial help if they do not pass. If a student is retained, parents can appeal to a grade-placement committee at the local school. Grade 5 students are required to pass both the reading and math TAKS tests in order to be promoted to grade 6. Starting in 2007-2008, students must also pass the grade 8 TAKS reading and math exams to be promoted to grade 9.
Students must pass the grade 11 Exit Level TAKS in all four subjects tested - English language arts, math, science and social studies - in order to graduate from high school. Students who do not pass the test in grade 11 will have several opportunities to retake the test. A Student Guide to Graduation from the Texas Education Agency explains the requirements.
It is important to be aware of both your child's score on the assessments and the overall score for her school. If your child scores below the standards, contact the teacher to discuss getting additional assistance, and to find out how you can support your child's learning at home. If the school's overall scores are low, ask what steps the school is taking to raise achievement levels for all students, and what you can do to help. If your child is in a failing school, ask what your options are for transferring and obtaining supplemental services.