These steps of the process are repeated annually (according to the TAAS website) "to ensure that tests of the highest quality are developed."
The question of why the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills test and the Texas Essential Knowledge curriculum exists is, at best, a matter of value. The obvious answer would be that we have standardized testing and curriculum because some people value the information gained by this testing and further value the curriculum which enables it. When citizens appear to value an idea, that idea can be easily adopted into politics. But to understand the reasons behind the creation of the TAAS test and the TEKS, one must first understand why people value the idea standardized testing.
According to The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy by Nicholaus Lemann, standardized testing as we know it began with Henry Chauncey, founder of the Educational Testing Service, and James Bryant Conant, president of Harvard in the 1930's and 1940's. According to Lemann, Chauncey accepted the concept of "mental testing" which was invented around the turn of the century by Alfred Binet.
The Stanford-Binet Test ( introduced in 1916 by Stanford University psychologist Lewis Terman) became very popular and is known today as an "Intelligence Quotient" or "IQ" test. The "IQ" test was used in War World I by the U.S. Army to identify a soldier's intellectual abilities. The author reveals that Conant, who admired Thomas Jefferson, wanted a "national aristocracy" that was " ...based on merit and talent and not on background or social status." In fact, some of the theories of "mental testing" were used by some to prove eugenics -- the idea that mental capacity is based on race and genetics. Lemann also contends that the ideas of Chauncey and Conant coincided with Reynold B. Johnson's invention in the 1930's of the Markograph. This machine could detect lead-pencil marks on paper. With the concept of "mental testing' and the ability to machine grade tests came standardized testing.
The development of the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills test, the Scholastic Assessment Test, and the Texas Academic Skills Program test are all examples of the value people in Texas place on measurable results to hold students and school systems accountable for learning. Clearly, these tests would not have been created and could not be wielded as political tools for those seeking or keeping political office if they were not accepted by the public. Both presidential candidates, for example, in the two thousand election race claim to want to measure the progress of schools. George W. Bush, Governor of Texas, has made accountability through standardized tests a major platform of his campaign. Testing in Texas came into being through Senate Bill I, started by his predecessor-- Democrat Governor Mark White and businessman Ross Perot.
According to the article in the Houston Post "Panel Tentatively Approves New Academic Assessment Test,"
The question of why states rely on standardized testing remains controversial. Judy Salpeter and Kristin Foster in the article, "Playing the Testing Game" write
Salpeter and Foster; however, show another side to standardized testing in their next paragraph.
Both presidential candidates, Vice-President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush, advocate accountability of teachers and students. Mr. Gore's campaign web-page which he calls his Education Blue-Book illustrates his willingness to test students, but also offers differing assessments he terms a "report card." The candidate writes, "To ensure that we are getting the most from our investments, we need to test our students, our teachers, and our schools - holding each to the highest standards."
Mr. Bush's campaign web-site also holds to the notion of measurable results. The text explains
The role of politics is to influence and control government. Without the support of voting citizens, standardized tests could not be a reality. As long as people of Texas believe that the TAAS and the TEKS hold value as tools for measuring education they are not destined to depart from political rhetoric or Texas any time soon.
They include classroom teachers, curriculum specialists, administrators, and education service center staff. Since its implementation, almost 7000 Texas Educators have served on the myriad of committees involved in the development of the TAAS test. Those on the committees represent the state geographically, ethnically, by gender, and by the size and type of school districts.
According to Jeanne Donovan of the Texas Education Consumers Association, TAAS, the SAT, and other state assessments are written by The Psychological Corporation (PC) and are aligned with national standards. PC is a subsidiary of Harcourt Brace, and Harcourt Brace is part of Harcourt General, Inc. HGI, is the nation's largest publisher of books and other materials for education. Besides Harcourt Brace, HGI also owns General Cinema Corporation (GCC) which provides advertising and entertainment, Communication Skill Builders, Inc. which develops and markets products for speech and language professionals, and Assessment System Inc. which is the nation's leading provider of computer-delivered licensing and credentialing examinations.
As stipulated in the Texas Code (TEC), Chapter 28, the required curriculum consists of foundation and enrichment subjects. The foundation TEKS are those of English Language Arts, and Reading, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies. Spanish Language Arts and English as a Second Language are also adopted as foundation TEKS under TEC. Under these standards, districts are required to provide instruction in the essential knowledge and skills of the appropriate grade levels in the foundation curriculum. Districts are to use the essential knowledge and skills in the enrichment curriculum as guidelines for instruction.
According to Cheryl Wright, Curriculum Specialist, in early 1991 there was a movement in the State Legislature to realign the curriculum standards in the State of Texas. The State of Texas mandated that the Essential Elements should be used by teachers to align curriculum in their classrooms. State legislators felt that the Essential Elements were too broad and were not specific in scope. When the education committee of the State Legislature met in 1994 (committee of legislators, TEA, and consultants), they decided that the Essential Elements were not serving the needs of students in Texas. So they put into the Texas Education Code that revisions would be made and the new elements would be titled "The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS)." The TEKS standard was initially put in place in 1995.
Chairmen of writing committees were hired to address what standards would be used to outline the TEKS in each discipline. Each chairman put together writing teams of educators representing high schools, parent groups, professors, and representives from private industry. These writing teams were given the task of coming up with standards that would be used to outline the TEKS standards. These professionals were content specialists in their fields. Teams were comprised of persons from all nationalities to ensure fairness across the board. The commissioner of education in Texas at that time was Mike Moses.
After the writing teams put together their drafts for the chairmen, a final draft was executed and sent to national reviewers across the country. The national reviewers consisted of professors, book writers and education specialists. After clarification, it was sent to a national panel of education specialists for review. After this process, the draft was sent back to TEA for presentation to the State Legislature education committee for adoption. It was started in 1995 and fully adopted in 1997.
According to the Texas Education Agency, TEKS in the following broad categories were adopted and are rewritten by committee as needed (TEA).