For the first time in 12 years, children across Lubbock will take a new state-wide, standardized curriculum test. The Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test, or TAKS, will replace the TAAS, which is the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills test.
Three things make the new test different from the old one. The TAKS will test new grade levels from 3rd through 11th. The test will also cover new subject areas, such as geometry and science, but most importantly the TAKS will set a higher standard of learning.
As the new semester approaches, so does a new test. "The whole reason is this, higher education and job market. We want our students to be able to compete in this century at the very highest level they possibly can," says LISD Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education. That is why starting February, Lubbock children will toss the old TAAS test and take the new TAKS test. The test is expected to be tougher, and help reflect a students entire curriculum.
"This is just going to be a much more rigorous test because of the fact it's not simply just looking at skills," says Graves. Here is an example of the differences between the TAAS and the new TAKS. In the new test, a Fourth grade student must read a story and answer a series of questions. In this case, the questions require a student to use problem solving skills and a higher level of thinking, but in the TAAS test the questions are a lot more direct.
Murfee Elementary Teacher, Robin Fulbright says the TAKS will allow schools to teach kids how to think, instead of how to just take a test. "This TAKS test is closely aligned to the TAAS. So as long as your teaching what your supposed to be teaching, your kids are going to be prepared," says Fulbright. But perhaps the students most affected by the new test will be this year's third graders. They have been trying to master their reading skills since kindergarten, and if they don't pass the reading portion of the TAKS test, they will not be promoted to fourth grade.
"The reason behind this is to stop social promotion. We don't want our children just passed on if they don't have that basic skill and can not function and be secure in the fourth grade," Graves says. It is a matter of one test changing the way students learn and the way teachers teach. Administrators and teachers will hold their students accountable for how they perform on the TAKS. Starting in 2004, poor performing schools can be taken over by the state if low scores do not improve over time.