Politics scramble March TAKS, TAAS, TAKS-M testing schedules

By FAITH HUFFMAN, News-Telegram News Editor

Jan. 22, 2008 - For students who aren't good test-takers or aren't especially good in one or more of the six core test areas - reading, writing, English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies - Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills week is especially difficult.

Add the stress of knowing low scores in one or more exit tests means not being able to get a high school diploma, and TAKS week is a nerve-racking thought, to say the least.

This year, a scrambled schedule will only add to the nail-biting mix - and we can thank politics for it.

Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott recently announced the state testing schedule would be adjusted to ensure no TAKS exams are given on election day, March 11.

“By moving testing dates, we can preserve schools as polling places and maintain a calm, quiet, secure testing environment for our students,” he said.

He cited three reasons for the decision to change the date: the election date being moved up one week, school being pushed back to late August, and the testing schedule being pushed back two weeks.

Superintendents, test coordinators and education service center directors when presented with the initial draft of the testing calendar voiced no concerns, but as the election draws near have indicated concern “that the steady influx of voters into their building could be distracting to students taking a high-stakes test.”

“We know this change causes additional work for our district and campus testing coordinators so we have not made the decision lightly. We had to balance the long-standing tradition of using schools as polling places with children's right to a quite testing environment as they take high stakes exams,” the education commissioner said.

So, the schedule has been revamped to ensure voters don't distract students.

For most, that means an extra day to prepare or deal with the butterflies swimming in the tummy. For those taking the exit level social studies tests, it means four fewer days to prepare for the test.

All tests slated Tuesday-Friday, March 4-7 are being pushed back a day. Which means that TAKS third, fifth and eighth grade reading tests; fourth grade and seventh grade writing tests; 10th grade and exit level English language arts tests; and exit level ELA, ELA-online and TAAS exit level writing retests which were slated for Tuesday, March 4, are now pushed back one day to Wednesday, March 5. Also the grades 3, 5 and 8 reading TAKS M, fourth and seventh grade writing field tests, ninth grade reading field test, 10th grade ELA, and exit level ELA field TAKS-M tests slated for Tuesday will now be administered on Wednesday.

The TAKS exit level mathematics, math-online and TAAS exit level math retests will all now be conducted on Thursday, March 6, instead of the original Wednesday, March 5.

TAKS exit level science and online science retests, as well as the TAAS exit level reading retest, and the make up session for grade 10 ELA which originally slated for Thursday, March 6, are now going to be held on Friday, March, 7.

That means the exit level social studies TAKS retests got bumped from the Friday schedule. Since these tests have to be completed no later than Saturday, March 8, the state opted to forgo the usual policy of not administering such tests on Mondays. The exit-level social studies exam affects the fewest number of test-takers, about 10,000 statewide, so those tests were moved up four days to Monday, March, 3.

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