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Students Stage T-Shirt TAKS Protest

Susan Notes: Another heroine emerges in Texas.

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HALTOM CITY - Maeghan Gibson is fed up with the state's standardized test.

Focus on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills is encroaching on classroom learning, Gibson said. Instead of having high-level discussions, the Haltom High School junior honors student said she spends too much time taking practice tests and filling out work sheets.

So she and a few friends waged a silent protest Monday morning outside the school by handing out pre-sold green T-shirts with slogans including "Walking standardized test score," "I am not in the equation of my education" and "Total Annihilation of Knowledge and Skills."

More than 60 students planned to wear the T-shirts today and Wednesday, during TAKS testing. But the T-shirts, deemed disruptive by Principal Allen Roberts, were confiscated until the end of the day, and the students were told not to wear them to school.

The students' efforts earned Gibson a trip to the principal's office, where she was anything but quiet.

"We are losing out on discussion and activities that would promote higher learning," Gibson said.

The shirts, she said, were intended to get the attention of legislators. A test may be needed, but perhaps it should be given once when students enter high school and again when they graduate "to see what kind of improvements they made," Gibson said.

"Instead of measuring how they fail, measure how they improve. That's a great way to do a test," she said.

During the hourlong discussion in his office, Roberts told Gibson that he would help the students write a letter to state Rep. Bob Griggs, the former Birdville superintendent, outlining their concerns about the test.

The students said they were pleased with Roberts' offer to help. Roberts, who did not return a telephone call Monday, will also try to set up a meeting with Griggs, R-North Richland Hills, said Mark Thomas, Birdville spokesman.

The students are not in trouble, but the test will go on.

"The state mandates that we are going to give this test," Thomas said. "The students may not be happy under the pressure that they are feeling at this point. We've got to follow the law."

The exit-level TAKS test, which students must pass to graduate from high school, is first given in the students' junior year.

The students say their protest was not aimed at Haltom High School, teachers or the Birdville district, but rather at state and national policies that require the standardized test.

"It's turned into a real 'Grab a work sheet, go sit down and you have to know this or you will fail' kind of thing. That's not good for long-term learning, in my opinion," junior Chase Robinson said. "We want our teachers to advance our knowledge, not a test."

IN THE KNOW

TAKS testing

The first round of the state's high-stakes accountability test -- the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills -- begins today for public school students. Third- and fifth-graders must pass portions of the exam to be promoted, and high school juniors must pass to receive a diploma.

This week's testing schedule:

Today: fourth-grade writing, fourth-grade Spanish writing, seventh-grade writing, ninth-grade reading, 10th-grade English language arts, exit-level English language arts and exit-level English language arts retest

Wednesday: third-grade reading, third-grade Spanish reading, fifth-grade reading, fifth-grade Spanish reading and exit-level math retest

Thursday: exit-level social studies retest; makeup session for 10th-grade English language arts

Friday: exit-level science retest

The next round of testing begins March 21.

IN THE KNOW

Taking the TAKS

Arrive at school well-rested and eat a good breakfast.

Resolve personal problems and other distractions before taking the test.

Read directions thoroughly before beginning the test.

Double-check answers when there is time.

Answer easy questions first and go back to difficult ones if there is time.

Reward yourself with a fun activity after the test.

SOURCE: Arlington school district

TAKS testing schedule. 7B

— Kelly Melhart
Star Telegram
2005-02-22
http://www.dfw.com/mld/startelegram/news/local/states/texas/northeast/10960662.htm


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