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Board to Legislators: YOU take the TAKS

Susan Notes: Yahoo!

Kudos to school board president Ginger Bettis and (most of) her colleagues. And kudos to State Representative Charlie Geren for admitting he probably couldn't pass the TAKS.

Wouldn't it be great if members of the Committee on Education and Labor in the 110th Congress all had to take their home state tests--and post the results?

by Edwin Newton

Azle School Board president Ginger Bettis feels the state-mandated TAKS is “stupid” and hinders the education process.

That’s why she and her school board brethren have come up with a resolution requiring Texas Legislators to take the exit test, first, before voting on any mandates that affect school districts.

The resolution was passed during a meeting held in December.

The resolution states that the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test has placed “unnecessary stress on children, faculty, administration and trustees.”

It proposes that all members of each legislative session take, and pass, the exit level test in reading, math, writing, science, social studies and language arts “before voting on any legislation that provides directives to school districts.”

The resolution passed 6-1, with board member Andy Rector voting against it.

Rector said he felt the resolution made district “look a little silly.”

Other board members even talked about their own inability to pass the test. Someone joked that the legislature might require board members to take the test as well.

But Bettis said taking the test is not the point. The resolution is just one school board’s way of letting legislators know how strongly it feels about the issue.

“I don’t mind looking silly to make a point,” she said.

Bettis said that during her nine years in office, she hasn’t seen any educational improvement in Azle school students. In fact, so much time is being spent preparing for – and taking – the test that important “life skills” are not being taught, she said.
She also doesn’t like TAKS scores being uses as a way to measure the abilities of school teachers.

Bettis said student could have a bad day at home, then have a bad test score. But that doesn’t necessarily mean a student is poor or that the teacher isn’t doing his or her job.
Bettis said the district has little power – except for public discontent – to do away with the TAKS test.

She hopes other districts will do the same.
“It’s only a pinprick I know,” she said. “But if only half the 1,100 school districts passed a resolution do you think they’d listen?”

State Representative Charlie Geren said he understands the statement the school board is trying to make.

“I can see it’s a little silly, (but) I’m not sure I could pass it,” he said. “It’s a difficult test.”

Geren said he believes the state needs a way to measure educational efficiency.

“We all need to know how our kids are getting along,” he said.

But too much emphasis is being placed on the results of the test – a test that places “unfair” pressure on schools, he said.

Geren said that, for example, a school’s rating depends on several different subgroups – not just an overall score. If one of the subgroups comes up unsatisfactory, then the whole school is rated as such.

“I don’t know how that’s fair,” he said.

If the legislature could do one thing, it would be coming up with a better way to measure success.

“I’ve got some problems with the test,” he said.
Geren will have a chance to share those concerns with other legislators when the Texas House of Representatives begins meeting Jan. 9.

And Geren isn’t the only one who feels this way.
Senate Education Chair Florence Shapiro, a Republican from Plano, has stated she will introduce legislation to abolish the TAKS test.
Although there are plenty of other important topics for legislators to discuss – in particular power deregulation – Geren said time will always be set aside for education.

“Education will never be behind us,” he said. “It’s too important and it costs so much money.”

— Edwin Newton
Houston Chronicle


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