AUSTIN – In the next school year Texas students will be required to take a new statewide academic assessment test that replaces the TAAS. Unless test design problems are quickly addressed, this test could suffer from the same educational shortcomings of its predecessor while undermining the state’s accountability system, according to research released this week by the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Largely hidden from independent scrutiny and public view, the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) is in the final stages of a three-year development process within the Texas Education Agency.

Given the important role the test will play – both in school accountability and determining student promotion – TPPF examined the state policies and practices used to develop the tests, explored legal requirements and relevant judicial rulings, and gathered TEA and independent research on current assessments (the TAAS).

“Texas school children deserve an academically rigorous assessment, but there is little evidence the TAKS tests will be much different from the TAAS,” says Chris Patterson, TPPF Director of Education Research and author of the study. “Texas needs a world-class test, not one reflecting the low standards of the past.”

The study sheds light on flaws in the TAAS, noting that the TEA’s test development process has not changed in preparing the TAKS. Among the study’s findings based on information currently available, the TAKS test will:

  • Measure and reward student achievement below national and international standards;
  • Allow students to pass grade-level tests by answering questions on below grade-level material;
  • Encourage curriculum narrowing as “teachers teach to the test,” because assessments measure only a portion of the curriculum standards rather than all the requirements;
  • Trivialize questions by imbedding answers in the question rather than requiring students to demonstrate acquired academic knowledge and skills;
  • Set and measure a level of academic difficulty that is based on the current level of student performance as opposed to the expectations set by state curriculum standards.

Among the policy recommendations, the TPPF study suggests that independent national experts be immediately hired to validate the TAKS to ensure it will meet state requirements and public expectations.