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Bamboozled By The Texas Miracle

By Teddi Beam-Conroy

Now that the TAAS is going national, what might teachers across the country face if standards a la Texas become law?

Lesson Number One: High-stakes Testing is King.

In Texas, TAAS is the law and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is an unelected monarch. My fellow teachers had been saying all along that TAAS was different. So what? It was also a Texas test, and I was still naive enough to believe that a national assessment would be taken more seriously than a local test. (The TAAS test does not allow for comparisons with school systems in other states. And the state no longer requires the ITBS, a national test, beyond second grade.)

The TAAS is administered in an atmosphere of cloak-and-dagger secrecy. No make-up testing is permitted. Teachers must sign an oath before giving the tests. The pages of each subtest are sealed, to be opened only by the student taking that test — although we teachers may assist them if necessary. Teachers are prohibited from answering questions the students may have on anything beyond the test-taking directions.

Stories circulate of teachers having their careers ruined because they answered the wrong question at the wrong time. (It leads one to paranoid wonderings: Is this new student teacher, who arrived in my classroom two weeks before the test, really a plant from the TEA?)

Lesson Number Two: High-stakes testing will take over your teaching.

Because TAAS is king, one can’t question the time taken away from actually teaching. TAAS is untimed; therefore it can take two full days to administer both TAAS and the TAAS practice tests given periodically through the year. If you give three practice tests, you lose six days of instruction.

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