Last week saw the first volley of TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) testing for public high schoolers. Crucial to the success of the mission was a ruling from State Education Commissioner Robert Scott that yes, bathroom breaks are allowed during the testing.
The Texas Classroom Teachers Association is claiming credit on its website for raising the question with Comnmissioner Scott earlier this month. During a Q & A session, TCTA members said they weren't sure what was allowed concerning trips to the bathroom during the state-mandated assessments, "making the already stressful tests even more unpleasant for teachers and students."
In response, the Assessment Division of the Texas Education Agency issued a "To the Administrator Addressed" letter to school district leaders, addressing two of the specific concerns raised.
1.Teachers in some school districts had informed the commissioner that students were not being allowed to take bathroom breaks during testing, and the letter reminds districts that breaks are allowed under the state policy: "At your discretion, students may be allowed to take restroom breaks one at a time or an entire class."
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2. Teachers were also concerned that students finishing the test were, in some cases, not allowed to read or leave the room. The letter reviews the state guideline that provides: "After their test materials have been collected, students may be allowed to quietly read books or to leave the testing room. Students may NOT read books between the written composition and revising and editing sections of the writing/ELA tests." The letter also notes that TEA has no stipulations addressing classroom activities once all students have completed their tests and the materials have been collected and stored.
At my daughter's high school, students were indeed allowed to go to the bathroom, and in fact, asking to go were the only state-sanctioned words she was permitted to speak from 8 in the morning until 2:30 in the afternoon. Some poor teacher was assigned to stand guard by the girls room, allowing only one in at a time. Once the teacher heard the hands-washing water rushing, she allowed the next girl to go in.
As for the books, students were allowed to read -- many students finished the test long before lunch so they had a long slog ahead of them -- but they weren't allowed to do homework and even though they could catch up on their required reading, they couldn't take notes or annotate anything. One student who brought in a sketch book, was told to exit the class and stow it in her locker till the day's testing was done.
It's nice to know that after all these years of TAKS (and its predecessors), that the state finally got this whole bathroom break thing sorted out. The high schoolers just finished their English test -- with math, science and social studies slated for the last week in April, first day in May. At least they know now, they won't have to wear diapers to the big event.