Those 4 letters can strike horror in the minds of teachers throughout the state of Texas. Those letters stand for Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test. This is a state mandated test to attempt to determine that the students in the different grade levels have learned what they should have learned by that time in their education. Tests are administered in different subjects to different age groups, beginning with 3rd graders and continuing through 12th grade (if they have not passed the Exit level exams). One area of concern is that teachers are required to teach, and students are expected to master, certain specifics within each subject (English Language Arts, Social Studies, Math and Science) throughout the school year. The goal is to be sure students have a well rounded education and have learned what is necessary to function in the world. Hopefully, they are also prepared for college, vocation school, or whatever choice they might want to make about careers after high school. Schools are rated by how well the student population scores on these tests. Schools can also be required to bring in outside help (at the district's expense) if students are not performing at the level they should. If the student population does well on the tests, schools can receive overall ratings as a district, but individual campuses can also be rated. Higher ratings quite often mean higher population as people will tend to move their children where the schools are thought to be "better". If a school has a less than exemplary rating, it could be seen as a lower level education for the children attending. That could mean fewer people moving in and actually could mean people moving out of the district, thereby reducing the amount of funding, thereby reducing the budget, thereby reducing the number of teachers available, etc. It can be a vicious circle for districts that have not performed as well, to try to maintain a level of education for their students by attempting to keep qualified teachers, staff, administrators, etc. when funding is dropping because student population is dropping. All of this can be seen in the testing that is being administered throughout the state this week.
Students are stressed, teachers are stressed, principals are stressed, and so on! I am certainly not one to give a solution as our nation has some of the lowest math and science scores in the world. In a technology-oriented society, it is extremely important for American students to be able to compete with some of the foreign students that are excelling in these subjects. Maybe the answer is to teach reading, writing, science, and arithmetic and stop worrying about self-esteem, and egos and $$'s. Stop accepting substandard work from students, stop passing them on to the next grade or to the next class without having learned the material, and expect them to perform at a higher level. They just might surprise all of us!