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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.

Alternative assessments

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.

Texas Accountability Ratings

The Accountability Ratings show how well schools and districts are performing across all grades and all subjects against the state standards. To calculate the Accountability Ratings, the state looks at performance on the TAKS test. Other factors also weigh into the ratings, including student subgroup performance on tests, TAKS (Accomodated) test scores for special education students in some subjects, dropout rates for middle schools and school completion rates for high schools.  Using these indicators, the state rates schools as Exemplary, Recognized, Academically Acceptable or Academically Unacceptable. Districts that have one or more schools rated as Academically Unacceptable cannot receive a rating of Exemplary or Recognized.

What are "AEA" schools and districts and how are they rated?

Some schools and districts are rated under alternative education accountability (AEA) procedures. These schools and districts serve students at risk of dropping out, recovered dropouts, pregnant or parenting students, adjudicated students, students with severe discipline problems, and expelled students. In calculating Accountability Ratings for AEA schools and districts, the state evaluates performance on the TAKS, school completion rates and dropout rates. Based on these indicators, the state rates AEA schools as either Academically Acceptable or Academically Unacceptable. Although the indicators are the same as for standard schools, the criteria to meet the level of Academically Acceptable are specific to AEA schools.

Why do the ratings matter?

A designation of "Academically Unacceptable" suggests that the overall student population at the school is not meeting the state's expectations.

What if my child attends an Academically Unacceptable school?

If your child attends an Academically Unacceptable school, ask what steps the school is taking to raise achievement levels for all students, and what you can do to help. Because these schools are likely to face consequences under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, your child may be eligible to receive federal and/or state money for tutoring or to transfer to another school.

Why do some schools and districts not have Accountability Ratings?

Schools and districts must have at least one TAKS test result to obtain an Accountability Rating. Some schools or districts with a very small number of total TAKS results may also be excluded from the ratings process. If your school's rating is not listed on GreatSchools, contact your principal for more information.

Gold Performance Acknowledgments (GPA)

The 2007-2008 Gold Performance Acknowledgments (GPA) recognize schools and districts for performance on up to 14 indicators. These indicators include:

  • Commended Performance: Writing - grades 4 and 7 (2008 TAKS results)
  • Commended Performance: Reading/English Language Arts - grades 3 through 11 (2008 TAKS results)
  • Commended Performance: Math - grades 3 through 11 (2008 TAKS results)
  • Commended Performance: Science - grades 5, 8, 10 and 11 (2008 TAKS results)
  • Commended Performance: Social Studies - grades 8, 10 and 11 (2008 TAKS results)
  • Comparable Improvement: Reading/English Language Arts (2007 and 2008 TAKS results)
  • Comparable Improvement: Math (2007 and 2008 TAKS results)
  • Attendance Rate (2006-2007)
  • Recommended High School Program/Distinguished Achievement Program - Class of 2007
  • Advanced Course/Dual Enrollment Completion - grades 9 through 12 (2006-2007)
  • Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate Results - grades 11 and 12 (2006-2007)
  • SAT/ACT Results (College Admissions Tests) - Class of 2007
  • Texas Success Initiative - Higher Education Readiness Component: English Language Arts - grade 11 (2008)
  • Texas Success Initiative - Higher Education Readiness Component: Math-grade 11 (2008)

How is the GPA determined?

To be considered for the GPA, schools and districts must have a Texas Accountability Rating of Academically Acceptable or higher and must meet the state's acknowledgement criteria on one or more of the indicators listed above. The acknowledgment criteria vary across grade levels for different indicators. For example, the criteria for attendance rates are a minimum of 95% for high schools, 96% for middle schools and 97% for elementary schools. For more information about the acknowledgment criteria for the other indicators, see the Texas Education Agency's 2008 Accountability Manual.

Why do some schools and districts not have acknowledgments?

Some schools and districts lack the data that is needed to calculate acknowledgments. Schools and districts that have not met the state's GPA criteria are not eligible to receive acknowledgments.

Search for Texas Schools.

Comments from readers

"This info is outdated, it's now the STAAR test, and it's worse than the TAKS. "
"i think you should removed these task test because you still have kids taking this test they having be able to graduate this is a lot stressed either for the parents and the child and dont think is right."
"I believe the task test is putting these children in a rut. My child has not learned half things I learned when I was in elementary school which is really sad. They have learned how to be stressed on a daily basis. The task test needs to be re-evaluated with surveys from parents and teachers each year,because it is getting to a point of out of control"
"The TAKS test is a joke! If you can't pass the test, you are therefore retarded & should just give up on life. The difficulty of it is elementary compared to the ACT or SAT. It baffles me that someone in Austin thought TAKS was a good litmus test for high school students.."
"I feel that these tests are unless and so stressful for the kids. Teach everything, not just whats on the TAKS test. How is that education?"
"When do we face reality? We have all but destroyed the common teacher. We have decimated the child to a mindless person whom we treat as a number, a statistic, rather a delicate mind we wish to educate. How has this come to pass? Well, at first, we wanted to insure teachers were providing sound education to our children, so a decision was made to test the proficiency to the teacher, however, this was deem demoralizing and many just plain resisted for one reason or another. The powers of Austin, then came up with the ideal of testing the children to see if they had retained the information provided. From there children were tested for all sorts of material. Doomed to failure, testing continues and it destroys children in the nature of dropping out about the 9th or 10th grade. As long as we continue this path, we will lose more children. We have taken away from the prime educator that ability to know their student. That prime responsibity of telling the parent if tha! t child goes on to the next grade in not made by that teacher rather its made by a retention all encompassing test. Children now are even getting symtoms of stress beyond comprehension yet in the name of keeping high paying educators employed, we sacarfice our children. We need to return the responsibilities of pass/fail to that first-line classroom educator, the teacher. We need to stop testing our children at the 11th grade to see if they have retained all that was taught to them in previous grades. Bottom line, we need to stop all the testing and let children have recess and become creative once more. "
"I think the TAKS tests are totally useless. All you are doing is teaching how to pass the test. What good is that. I just got a letter from my child's math teacher saying that there will be no math book this year. Seems they don't need one because they will only be teaching them what they need to know to pass the TAKS test. This is ridiculous. I am so upset. I have not spoken to anyone, including teachers that agrees with this method of teaching. Let's put a stop is nonsense."
"I don't understand why we look at our children s future to be better if they do a great job on TAKS tests. You can be a great test taker and not be able to make it in the world. I was a horrible test taker growing up, but did better in verbal testing. I surpassed people in the corporate world because they couldn't speak a coherent sentence. But you are telling me that my child has to stress over a test that really has no meaning on what the future holds for them. I agree with the last parent that we need to stop this and teach our children EVERYTHING in school, not just what is on a test!!!!!!!!"
"I have not met one person, whether it be parent or teacher who agrees with the TAKS testing. What is it going to take to stop this demeaning way of teaching and testing? Too many families are stressed to the limit and with economy on a downward spiral someone somewhere is going to stand up and shout 'ENOUGH!' And I can hardly wait to join in with that shout. I wish we knew who the person was that dreamed this whole thing up, he/she needs to open their eyes and see the destruction they caused in school systems across America!"
"They actually do take the test in Austin."
"If my district in Texas has a High School that is rated unacceptable does the State pay for tuition for my child to attend a charter school? If so how do I get funding. My child is currently enrolled in charter school through University of Texas online program and I am finding it hard to meet the financial needs."
" Are these standard tougher than the standards for CAlifornia school? The reason I am asking is, I have 2 sons, 1st and 6th grade that I want to move here with me to Arlngton, TX (Mansfield School District) and I want to show in court that the educational standards here in Texas are much higher."
"I think the TASK test is ridiculous that you actually teach the test so the school gets a good grade. If the teachers actually taught our students they should be able to pass it on their own. However if they are straight A Honor roll students have excellent grades and can't pass the task test shouldn't mean anything and they should be able to pass to the next grade if they've made great grades all year. They don't do the TASK test in Austin nor NC but they do it here in Killeen, TX why is that??"