End of mandatory TAKS passage?

October 22, 2008 10:24:37 AM PDT
Students would no longer have to pass the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test to go on to the next grade under a school accountability plan unveiled Tuesday by the leaders of the House and Senate education committees. The proposal also would base annual school performance ratings on three years of test scores rather than the most recent year, allowing school districts and campuses to make up for a bad year of results with a couple of positive years.

Those changes, presented to a special House-Senate committee on school accountability, are expected to be welcomed by school superintendents and teachers across the state, who have repeatedly complained about requiring students in grades 3, 5 and 8 to pass the TAKS before being promoted.

The requirement was originally proposed by former Gov. George Bush in an effort to end social promotion during his 1998 re-election campaign and then passed by the Legislature in 1999.

Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, said school districts would be able to decide their own criteria for promotion of students, using test scores, grades and whatever else is considered appropriate.

"Just because we have said social promotion won't be based on a single test doesn't mean we won't take care of those students (who are underperforming)," Shapiro said. "We're not saying they won't be held back; we're just saying the decision won't be based on one test."

Another member of the committee, former Bush education adviser Sandy Kress, called the proposal a "step back" in a state that still has a serious problem with social promotion -- automatically passing students regardless of achievement.

Kress said lifting the state requirement and leaving it to local school districts to decide when a student should be promoted would result in large numbers of students being pushed through the system without the skills they need.

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