Before the TAAS test became the TAKS test, some conservative members of the SBOE tried to get rid of the test altogether.  The Houston Chronicle asked me to write an editorial, and I did.  They sent me the mock up for the Sunday paper, but SBOE member Donna Ballard submitted one too, and I got bumped.  Mine was better!



by Mary McGarr

What a great idea the Republican leaders of the State Board of education have offered the public!  I refer, of course, to the suggestion by board members Donna Ballard and Robert Offutt that the State eliminate the TAAS test.

Ballard is exactly right in her assertions that the test is irresponsible because improving scores on it has become the sole goal of schools' curriculum.  The teachers are not to be blamed for teaching to the test, because they are judged by the performance of their students on that test.

No one is saying that teachers should not be held accountable for what they are doing in the classroom.  What IS being said is that unless the assessment is reliable, that accountability system is fraudulent and unfair.

The Texas Assessment of Academic Skills is a major thrust of the Texas Education Agency, and it is a joke.  The test is changed every year, mostly by making it less difficult so that scores will improve.  The constant change allows governors, both Democrats and Republicans, to look good to the public.  The proof of this statement is obvious when the scores go up by the same percentages all over the state.  Last year, every school district in Texas was able to report to its patrons that their TAAS scores had improved.  Do they think that no one noticed this fact?

In the April 1995 issue of Texas Lone Star, a publication of the Texas Association of School Boards, Gov. George W. Bush is quoted as saying, "The biggest struggle of all is going to be to free school boards, teachers and parents from the clutches of the TEA and the unfunded mandates of the Texas Legislature."  Reportedly, a ballroom full of school board members from across the state stood and applauded in support of the promised deregulation efforts.

Bush also promised while he was running for governor to "eliminate the TEA."  His strong stand against the educational bureaucracy was the only reason he was elected.  However, as soon as he was elected, he became a strong supporter of that bunch instead of their best critic.

To quote State Representative Paul Sadler, D-Henderson, and State Senator Bill Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, as credible critics of the Republican State Board of Education members,  as the Chronicle and others have done, is irresponsible journalism.  These two, along with board member Jack Christie, are the instigators of bringing the School to Work/Goals 2000 mess to Texas through their Senate Bill I, passed in 1995.

This initiative, begun by President Bush and his secretary of education, Lamar Alexander, and embraced by the Clintons, is a blatant attempt to take freedom of choice with regard to one's education and job choice away from all Americans.  Parents have no idea what this entire group is trying to do in the name of "improving education."

Bringing "equity" to the finance system, creating site-based decision-making, turning junior highs into "middle" schools, installing the TAAS, revamping teacher education and staff development, lowering entrance requirements of universities, turning community colleges into vocational training centers, dumbing down elementary curriculum through whole language, math problem solving and the use of "manipulatives," eliminating books in favor of controlled computer curriculum, changing from "content" based learning to "process" learning, using "inventive spelling," acquiring correct writing through osmosis and making teachers "facilitators" have all occurred and now 80 percent of our students cannot read and/or think for themselves. These children will grow up to become a manipulated electorate, and they will exist to provide "workers" for big businesses.

There is no ambivalence in the Republican state school board members' stance on standards.  The Iowa Test of Basic Skills has been proved over time to be a viable measurement of students' abilities.  The norms for this test are redone regularly.  This test measures students' academic achievement against that of other students of the same grade all over America.

The TAAS measures students against themselves and what they did the previous year.  It should be obvious to anyone with a brain that there is a difference in the purpose of each.  One test is measurable and credible; the other is not.

Unfortunately, it appears that the TAAS will remain and nothing will change until voters unseat people like George Bush, Jack Christie, Bill Ratliff and Teel Bivins who say one thing to get elected and do another once they are in office.

Hooray for the Republican State Board of Education members who are standing up for their beliefs and what is proper.  It's a refreshing stance.