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March 20, 2007 (512) 463-0300

COMMITTEE CONSIDERS ENDING TAKS TEST

PHOTO
Senator Florence Shapiro of Plano discusses her bill that would replace the TAKS test with end-of-course exams.

(AUSTIN) -- The Senate Education Committee looked at a bill Tuesday that would replace the current standardized testing system with end-of-course exams. The state's Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test has been criticized for its limitations, such as failing to prepare students for college, and forcing instructors to teach to the test rather than focusing on content. Senate Bill 1031 would phase out the TAKS test, replacing it with four end-of-course exams, beginning in the 2009 school year. Bill Sponsor and Committee Chair Florence Shapiro says these kinds of tests serve students and teachers better than the current system of standardized tests. "End of course assessments, I believe, will provide a better way for students, for schools and for the state to measure and test our students," she said.

The first class to take these exams would be the 2009 incoming freshmen class. These tests would be offered for the four core curriculum areas, Math, Science, English and Social Studies, and would make up 15 percent of a student's final grade. In order to graduate from high school, students would need to score at least 70 points out of 100 on all 16 of the end-of-course exams taken over the course of their high school careers.

The TAKS test has also been criticized for an increase in "testing irregularities" that may indicate cheating. SB 1031 includes provisions for increased security surrounding these end-of-course exams, directing the Education Agency Commissioner to develop new security standards, and authorizing random audits of school districts to ensure compliance. It would also make leaking test information a class-C misdemeanor.

The Senate passed a bill Tuesday that seeks to increase international pressure on the current regime in the Sudan to end the genocide taking place in the Darfur region of that country. Senate Bill 247, by Houston Senator Rodney Ellis and Plano Senator Florence Shapiro, would direct the Employee and Teacher Retirement System of Texas to divest holdings in certain companies that do business in Sudan. Companies that substantially aid the government of Sudan or don't significantly benefit the people of Sudan are eligible for divestment. This represents a few companies, mostly oil and gas, that would require divestment of about $500 million in investments, or less than one percent of the total fund balance, said Ellis.

Ellis said that Texas' role in ending genocide in Sudan is more than just placing economic pressure, but is also serving as a model for other states to follow. He said Tuesday's measure, along with a measure recently passed by Colorado, could bring this issue to the federal government. "I think those two states in particular, will be a signal to other states in the country," he said. "I would make a prediction that when another seven or eight states pass legislation along these lines, you may see this debate go on in the United States Congress."

The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, March 21, at 11 a.m.

Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.

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