(Names appear in reverse
Please note: All comments below are the sole work
of the author alone and not edited or changed by the members of
(Link to J.
Eurey's Bio Statement)
Instructional Evaluation is a research course designed to
help graduate level students identify, research, and distinguish
between what is fact and fiction in education in Texas. The
State of Texas at the elementary, junior and high school level
has one evaluation instrument in place to determine if students
in grades 3-12 are proficient in reading, writing and arithmetic.
This test is called the Texas Assessment and Academic Skills
In the early 1980's the State of Texas mandated that every
student in High School will be proficient in reading, writing
and arithmetic. The State further mandated that each student
take and pass all 3 sections (reading, writing, and math), of
the TAAS test to exit high school. TAAS is a basic skills test
given by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), to determine if students
are proficient in all three disciplines to exit high school
with a diploma.
While reading this research, our research team will give you
valuable insight as to how the test was formed, what politics
were behind introducing this test, who are the major players,
what political forces were behind getting this test into the
classroom, the impact of TEA and the State Government and most
important, the economic impact of the major players who designed
This research although exhausting, was somewhat difficult
in scope because of the level of secrecy you feel when asking
questions about TAAS. Our team consists of a cross-section of
educators from various backgrounds and strong opinions. Our
aim in this project is to learn and to provide other practitioners
of education an opportunity to learn what is TAAS and how can
it help you become a better teacher or educator.
After completing my research, I am in favor of some level
of testing. I do not agree that TAAS is the only guiding light
of exit tests. It's true that accountability is important to
see if learning is taking place. It says something that in the
State of Texas that if TAAS is the answer to measure accountability,
than why are student's in Texas some of the lowest performing
students on national achievement tests such as the SAT? It bears
to mention that this research gives you insight to wonder, explore
and hold the masterminds of TAAS accountable to the highest
standards of academia in a democratic society we call America.
(Link to L.
Dunleavy's Bio Statement)
Through the study of evaluating curriculum I have
come to realize that the issue is an extremely complex one. Is
what is being taught valuable to know? Does our method of evaluation
align with our ideals of democracy? Does our curriculum encourage
democratic values? Does the curriculum really prepare people to
meet the challenges of life? These and many other questions have
led, for me, to a new dimension of how I perceive my own work
as a teacher.
My original intention as a teacher in the state
of Texas was to open young minds to the many possibilities and
ideas that life abundantly offers and to act as a facilitator
as they develop their own skills that will help them through life.
I believe that standardized testing has usurped some of my own
idealism about the value of an education. I do not believe that
a student's ability to score well on a standardized test will
necessarily mean that they will be able to apply what they know
in a useful and productive manner. In effect, tests, such as the
TAAS, act as a Pavlovian dinner bell. I feel that my ability to
help children truly understand the nature and application of ideas
is impeded by having to teach a set of given constructs that may
have no relation to how well a student will succeed against life's
Through this evaluating curriculum class I have
gained a greater awareness of options to standardized testing
and multiple choice type evaluations. There are many possibilities
in evaluating curriculum. I believe that taking the politics out
of the public education system and leaving the choices open to
teachers, administrators, curriculum specialists, and to students
will be the first great step toward truly evaluating curriculum
and fostering the concepts of democracy.
Much has been said about the state of education in Texas, specifically
the use of the scores from TAAS tests to determine everything from
how much money and positive or negative recognition schools
to whether a student gets a high school diploma. In the 1999-2000
school year Houston Independent School District teachers' bonuses
were based entirely on how well their school scored on the TAAS.
Principals use computer programs to track the TAAS scores of students
by teacher. The pressure of the TAAS infects everyone involved in
education from superintendents to secretaries, from teachers to
parents to students. With so much riding on the schools' and students'
performances on this one assessment tool, it is no wonder that the
primary business of a school, "to prepare a student for life
after high school with the knowledge needed to be a productive member
of a democratic society," is being superseded by the race for
The following is a personal experience regarding how the has TAAS
affected the instruction on one high school campus.
The exit level TAAS tests are given in Reading, Writing and Mathematics.
Starting in September, the whole school begins preparing. We are
given pep talks, instructions on how to teach test taking, lists
of helpful hints, and directions on our TAAS strategies. Each
year is a little different but the theme is always the same, "Teach
the TAAS." Every teacher in every subject is instructed to
have the students write at least one TAAS style, five paragraph
essay each six weeks. Every teacher in every subject area is also
expected to teach TAAS math word problems every week. Reading
passages are to be given by every teacher often,
followed by a discussion of TAAS reading strategies. All of these
actions are to be taken by the teachers of all subjects to improve
students' test scores on these three subjects. Something
has got to give. Unfortunately the students are made to
suffer by not receiving the fullest instruction possible in each
of their subjects because all of their teachers are told to spend
so much time on TAAS. This prioritization of the TAAS to the detriment
of all else has got to stop. TEA must find an alternative to this
high-stakes test that is becoming the focus of learning in Texas.
( Link to M.
Carr's Bio Statement)
This class on Instructional Evaluation has raised
the issue of how what we do in education affects whether students
develop into adult citizens of this republic with the necessary
skills to participate fully in this democratic society. To me
this means that the individual needs to know how their government
works, and their role in the selection of that government. Additionally
it means that they need to have the intellectual tools needed
to participate in society, both in making life decisions but also
in participating in the economy.
The TEKS seem to be comprehensive, and seem to encourage the development
of students who can think independently and obtain a deep understanding
of different subjects. The TAAS, on the other hand, seems to have
the opposite affect on the education of students. This is because
the high stakes involved with TAAS have resulted in schools feeling
pressured to make their students perform well on the test, often
to the exclusion of a well-rounded education. This pressure is often
exasperated by the fact that administrators – superintendents and
principals – receive financial incentives based on the passing rates
of students. Additionally, teachers’ jobs have been placed at risk
when students fail to do well on the test.
The idea of accountability is not one that, in principal, I am
opposed to. As a taxpayer, I want to know that my money is being
put to good use. I want to be assured that the claims of educators
are, in fact, true and can be proven. However, the TAAS, as a minimum
skills test, does not seem, to me, to be serving this purpose. If
the public schools are testing for mediocrity, then that is all
that they will achieve.
Additionally, I am disturbed that because of the TAAS, schools
are ignoring those things that can enrich a student’s life, and
make them more able to deal with a complex world. As a Mathematics
teacher I have always felt that students who do not know math are
at a disadvantage in an ever more technical world. However, I also
feel that people who do not have an understanding of the world that
they live in are incapable of functioning in our society.
As a teacher at the college/university level, the ever-increasing
number of students that I see in my remedial classes also disturbs
me. When I started teaching Remedial Mathematics, I had no more
than 25 students to a class. Even at the University of Houston,
I had no more than 35 in a class. This semester the University increased
the class size to 50 because so many students needed remediation,
and there were not enough instructors to maintain the smaller class
size. This in spite of the fact that two self-paced classes were
introduced last spring. This contradicts the State’s claims that
students, as evidenced by TAAS scores, are doing better academically.
When this project began, I did not have a favorable opinion of
the TAAS, primarily because of the local press coverage about how
basic the Exit Level TAAS is. My view of it has become even more
jaded. I do not see how we as Texans can allow a system to continue
that does not push our students to higher levels of thinking and
understanding. How can we allow our students to only achieve minimum
skills in Reading, Writing and Mathematics and call that that education?
Parents, citizens at large, and educators need to unite to find
a way to better prepare our children for the future. I do not know
what that better way is, I only know that what we now have is not
(Link to B.
Ardoin's Bio Statement)
This course, Instructional Evaluation, raises many
questions about not only the validity and reliability of the tests
we give our children in Texas, but it also raises questions about
what we are teaching. How objective are our objective tests? With
so much emphasis on the Texas high risk test, TAAS, it is important
to look at what the state feels is imperative to test (thus important
to teach). If TAAS is a valid test of skills for our public school
students, then it must test what we WANT OUR CHILDREN TO LEARN,
according to the State of Texas. As a parent, I think it is more
important to start one level closer to home. I think it is important
that parents ask "What are MY goals for MY children?"
With this question firmly answered in our minds, we (parents)
should ask, "Are schools preparing our children to fulfill
these goals, and, if not, what are the alternatives?"
For my family, I would like the children prepared
to participate as members of the community. I would like them
to believe in the good of this country and be willing to change
the things that are not right. I would like for them to be prepared
(armed with tools of knowledge) to view injustices as opportunities
for change where they must participate. None of these skills
are tested in TAAS.
Is it important that they learn to read, write and
calculate? Absolutely, in this industrialized nation, all of these
foundations are important. Does TAAS allow us to objectively and
reliably test for these skills? I think not. Some of the questions
of TAAS are not well written, in that they are linguistically
incorrect. (For example, one question after a brief story asked,
"What would you do with a <object named>"? According
to proper English, there is NO wrong answer to this question.
Thus, if the TAAS answer did not include all of the possible answers,
the test itself is flawed.)
But, it is also important that they learn to communicate.
Being multilingual would be beneficial, but it is more important
to me that our children learn to write well, speak well and express
themselves with confidence. It is important to me that my family
prioritizes God, family, and nation, in that order. Like James
Banks, I believe that education should help students develop "the
knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to participate in reflective
How are these goals aligned with what is being tested
by TAAS? The correlation is remote. With this high stakes test,
the state attempts to assure that students who received a high
school diploma are capable of the 3R's. But, this alone is not
enough. Much too much of the school day is spent preparing for
this high stakes test. Were this a problem for a single year of
school, it could probably be dismissed as insignificant, but this
process begins in Kindergarten with assessment tests to check
a child's readiness for TAAS and includes almost every grade through
the 12 years of schooling.
What are the alternatives for parents? Some private
schools choose not to follow the TAAS/TEKS curriculum, and these
can be an alternative. Home Schooling (which is also considered
a private school) is another alternative. But, if progress is
to be made for the sake of the children, avoidance is not the
answer. Parents must become involved at the local level in the
classroom and with the administration of the local school. Get
to know the superintendent. Find other parents who believe in
new goals for the school and take these concerns to local meetings.
Then work your way up to the state and national level if necessary.
What is at stake is more than a test that allows children to move
forward in school. What is at stake is the education of our children.