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Letters to the Editor...
The Untold Secret -- TAAS Problems

The teaching of the Texas Essential
Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) is mandated for
each classroom, for each subject, and for
each grade level in the public schools of
Texas. As printed, the TEKS documents are
over 1000 pages long. Since the TAAS tests
are built upon the TEKS, then a child who
has not been taught all the TEKS really does
not have an equitable chance to do well on
the TAAS tests, which now carry the added
weight of determining whether or not a child
is promoted from one grade level to the
next.

It seems to me that any parent whose child
does not pass the TAAS has legal grounds for
a lawsuit because SB 1 in combination with
the Texas Education Agency-produced TEKS has
set up an impossible mandate for all
teachers and students to reach.

One of these days some litigious person or
group is going to figure it out. Someone is
going to file a lawsuit which challenges a
school district to produce proof using
teachers' lesson plan books to show that
every one of the TEKS has been taught during
the school year.

Consider English I, for instance. Based upon
my twenty-seven years of experience as a
public school English teacher, I calculate
that it would take at least eighteen months
of solid instruction to teach all the
English I TEKS, not the nine months we are
presently allotted. Because it is an
impossibility for a teacher to teach and
document that he has taught every one of the
99 elements in English I during a single
school year, how would a school district
ever prove that a student has had ample
instruction in all the elements?

Any district that says it has aligned its
curriculum with all the TEKS has done it on
paper only. In reality it is not happening
at the classroom level because SB 1 sets up
an impossible task. Even though English I,
II, III, and IV are basically the same TEKS,
each teacher at each grade level is still
charged with teaching each of the elements
which is designated for that grade and for
that course. The truth is that the school
year is not long enough for teachers to
teach all the zillion and one TEKS from each
subject at each grade level no matter how
much time and money are spent on curriculum
alignment.

In the past, certain minority groups have
lost their lawsuits because they focused
their litigation on the wrong target -- the
equity gap. In essence, the TAAS scores show
that the equity gap between minorities and
Whites is decreasing; and based upon that
evidence, the courts supported the present
accountability system.

The real problem with the TAAS tests is not
the equity gap nor the discriminatory issue.
The untold secret is that all Texas public
school children -- not just minority
children-- have grounds for a lawsuit. Texas
simply does not give students enough time to
learn the material over which they are
tested. I wonder how the education
bureaucracy would respond if some savvy
lawyer rooted out the real problem with the
state's accountability system.

Donna Garner, Texas (Ex-Public School Teacher), dggarner@swbell.net,
6/05/00

This month's letters:

  • Responding to a Positive Press, 6/27/00, by Mae in Texas.
  • Create your own newspaper that is positive!!!, 6/20/00, by A thought!.
  • A Reply to Mr. Sowell, 6/20/00, by L. Pratt.
  • Why are Teachers Negative about Clutural Exchanges?, 6/16/00, by Dr. Barbara Y. Wills.
  • The Untold Secret -- TAAS Problems, 6/05/00, by Donna Garner, Texas (Ex-Public School Teacher).
  • How About a Positive Press?, 6/03/00, by Jan Fisher.

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