Wake-Up Call

The TAKS field test results were so gawd-awful they may become a catalyst for good

Paula Freeney, Scarborough ninth-grade coordinator, says when ninth-graders drop out it's usually because they're either too old and have become disenfranchised or they've been socially promoted and find themselves overwhelmed. Scarborough hopes an extensive mentoring system and individual education plans will counter this problem.

Freeney and Everson have mixed reactions to TAKS. Freeney says Scarborough kids are well prepared. Everson plans to start Saturday tutorials.

Both say if their students have any reaction to TAKS, it isn't one of fear. Apparently, familiarity does breed a certain amount of contempt, and resentment. "They have been tested to death," Freeney says. "They don't appreciate being guinea pigs," Everson adds.

If Scarborough hadn't moved the chess club to midday, Johnny Jones (left), playing chess with Kirk Runyon, says he never could have joined because he works after school.
Margaret Downing
If Scarborough hadn't moved the chess club to midday, Johnny Jones (left), playing chess with Kirk Runyon, says he never could have joined because he works after school.
Click here for a sample question from the TAKS.
Taken from TAKS test
Click here for a sample question from the TAKS.


Debate continues over testing. Robert Stockwell, HISD's chief academic officer, looks at National Assessment of Education Progress data from the U.S. Department of Education and says that some of it shows Texas kids have been doing well.

Abelardo Saavedra, HISD's executive deputy superintendent for school support services, concedes that the Hispanic TAKS scores were not what they wanted. But he cautions that critics shouldn't zero in on bilingual education as being inefficient. Social economics is the biggest correlation to performance, he says. "Poor kids just don't do as well; they aren't as well prepared when they come to school." And a lot of minority kids are poor.

Amstutz looks at the rising TAAS scores and sees no link to college entrance SAT scores, which have remained flat for Texas students.

Alaniz says decisions such as the state has made that every student must know algebra and geometry can be debated, but he's decided educators should focus on helping students understand more of the material.

"Kids can't read in high school. With Lee you have kids who don't speak the language. So there's a lot of problems we're trying to address, but at least we're together, not in isolation and in competition with one another," Alaniz says.

"You know, we've been competing with one another for years. I'm an ex-high school principal, and all we ever did was meet to talk about how your football team beat my football team," Alaniz says. "We didn't share what was working and what was not working. So now we're sharing strategies."

Alaniz knows some principals and teachers will resist change. Four years ago, he himself thought no wholesale change was needed, just a little "tinkering." He doesn't believe that anymore.

"We need to look at this thing differently. Otherwise we're going to keep doing what we're doing, and that's not working. This TAKS test is really going to wake some people up."

Sometimes bad news is really good news. And sometimes desperate people take dramatic leaps, and in the process rediscover both their capacity for genius and common sense in equal measure.

And the answer is: B.
For other test questions, go to the TAKS website and have fun.

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