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Texas Getting Rid of Graduation Exit Exams

When I was in school, every two years we had to take a standardized test in order to pass that grade.  For me, the tests were very easy and I always scored well over the 95% range for the state, but that's just me.  I remember my first day of seventh grade.  First period was English with Ms. Gorman who was about 4'6, 75 pounds, and as soon as we all sat down, she starts preaching about the TAAS test in February.  We were like, it's August, why are you talking about February?

Everything she taught was about the big test we would have to take.  That became a pattern throughout Junior and High School.  All the teachers would teach according to how we would take this standardized test because we had to pass in order to pass the grade. 

Once Senior year came, the test was much more important because it also meant if you were going to graduate High School at all and walk the stage with your classmates.  That was the TAAS test, Texas Assessment of Academic Skills.

About five years ago, a new test was introduced that was supposed to be harder to help weed people out easier and make sure standards for graduation were high enough to prepare students for college better.  This new test is called the TAKS test, Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.  The first year, almost half the students across the state failed this exam.  However, they put a stipulation in that they would ease the new test into the school systems so it wasn't seniors taking it that first year, so they continued to take the TAAS for graduation exit.

Anyway, after the first couple of years, they decided major changes needed to be made because too many people were failing.  Records amount of people failing standardized exams, so sad...  What is going on now is Texas is thinking about passing something that completely gets rid of these standardized exit exams all together.  So many people have found it unfair to make students pass every section in order to graduate, even though they are given FIVE opportunities to pass, yes, FIVE!!  So sad...

The new method they want to give is 12 different exams over core subjects, and for all the exams, the average needs to be 70.  That means you can get an 80 on one section and a 60 on another, and still average a 70 and actually graduate.  Personally, I think this is very sad that our public schools aren't able to teach our students what it takes to pass all subjects.  How are they going to survive college?  I graduated High School with Advanced Honors, and I barely passed my Freshman year in College because I didn't think High School prepared me for college whatsoever.  If students don't even have to pass each section, they're going to be flunking out of college right and left in record numbers.  However, I guess more high school seniors will graduate instead of having to do summer school or repeating the year altogether.

Donna not happy with the state's decision to get rid of the standardized exams...

Comment balloon 13 commentsDonna Harris • May 16 2007 07:37AM


Hi Donna, I'm your neighbor to the south and I think it's incredibly sad as well.  My daughter just got commended scores on all 3 TAKS exams for 4th grade.  This means she's in the top 3%.  I'm not saying that to brag, but it is possible to pass the test.  Why lower standards as a way to fix the problem?  I'm so not happy with the state's decision as well. Thank you for posting this.
Posted by Stephanie Edwards-Musa, knitwit at thred UP ( almost 12 years ago

Donna, passing the TAAS, sad to say, didn't prepare kids for their freshman year of college either (as your experience evidences).  And way too much time was spent "teaching to the test" rather than giving an actual education.  It is entirely possible to pass the TAAS (or the TAKS) with flying colors while still not having an education in anything other than test taking.

I'm one of those people who "tests well", as are my kids and my husband.  (Both my children took the SAT in 7th grade and qualified for the Duke TIP program.)  My nieces, both teachers and both quite knowledgable, however, suffer from test anxiety (have no idea why) and don't test as knowing what they actually do.  I know other people who are MUCH better educated than I am who don't test well for one reason or another and might not pass tests that purport to show how much they know. 

Our educational system is seriously in need of revamping, I can agree with that.  (With two children 12 years apart, a sister who was a teacher for 30 years and 2 nieces, as I said, who are teachers, I've spent a LOT of time dealing with and thinking about the Texas an the U.S. educational system.)  But, having watched the social/political  experiment that is the TAAS/TAKS, I'm not all that heartbroken at the thought of it being replaced with something else, if that something else is an improvement which leads to REAL education for our children.



Posted by Tricia Jumonville, Texas REALTOR , Agent With Horse Sense (Bradfield Properties) almost 12 years ago

Stephanie, Thank you for your response.  I don't have any kids yet, though one is baking for a Thanksgiving delivery, however, I can't imagine what the exit exams are going to be once my child gets to school.  The standards might drop so low that if they can add 2+2 and type 80 words a minute on instant messager, they get a diploma!!

I really hope that current parents are doing their best to stop this.  I have several teacher friends and they're not happy with the change.

Posted by Donna Harris, Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator (Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - almost 12 years ago

Hi Tricia, I took the SAT in 7th grade for DUKE as well.  Boy, was that one intimidating day because they had us mixed within the high school kids.  I was like 4'5 and looked to be in about in 5th grade.

Anyway, thanks for your response.  I agree that it's not good to teach to test taking as I mentioned in my example of the first day of 7th grade already looking at February.  However, I don't think allowing people to fail certain subjects just because they have an average of passing, is going to do any good either.

I have no idea what a good compromise should be, but I know what is currently in place doesn't work, and what they're proposing isn't going to work...

What do you Teacher family members propose?  Have they mentioned anything?

Posted by Donna Harris, Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator (Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - almost 12 years ago

Congratulations Donna! 

About the revamping, I agree, but what I understood was that there was not going to by ANY exit exam.  That I disagree with.  I agree that they spend too much time on how to take the test but I think it is the test itself, not the material.  Have seen how they word the problems? 

Tricia, thanks for reminding me that I need to go register my daughter for Duke TIP. Registration is coming close to an end. 

Well, we could debate this all day but I just hope the state stands behind our children and does right by them.  Giving an easy way out is definitely not the way to go. 

Posted by Stephanie Edwards-Musa, knitwit at thred UP ( almost 12 years ago

Well, I will tell you, their kids are all home-schooled (it's pretty easy to do that, of course, with 2 teachers and one retired-after-30-years teacher in the family).  And the two nieces went through the very school system that they won't put their own children in; it's gotten that much worse over the last 30 years or so. 

Which tells you that the teachers don't have a whole lot of control over the quality of the education that's offered to our children in the public schools, doesn't it? 

I'll have to ask my sister what she thinks of this proposal and what exactly she'd do to fix the system we have now.  I do know she thinks it's seriously broken.

My own children had a mix of public and private schooling, by the way, depending on our own situation and what schools were available where and when.  And what was great for one of them was (or would have been) absolutely abysmal for the other.  That's in one family, so you can imagine the scope of trying to come up with a system that will work for everyone in every family and every socioeconomic group and every culture that exists in our country.  And if you have a testing system that's designed to turn out a specific product (people who can pass this specific test) based on the goals of a specific culture and socioeconomic group within our overall society, it's just not going to work for everyone.

I'm all about education - in fact, if I won the lottery, one of my goals would be to start a school.  But it's one of the more complicated aspects of raising children (as you'll soon learn - congratulations again!) and one that isn't easily resolved even with your own children. 

I'd be happier if I knew that there was a good plan in place to replace the tests that are being eliminated.


Posted by Tricia Jumonville, Texas REALTOR , Agent With Horse Sense (Bradfield Properties) almost 12 years ago

Tricia, I hope you didn't take my comment as a bash to the teachers. I didn't intend for it to sound that way.  I apologize if you did. 

I agree, it starts WAY above them.  The teachers do the best they can with what is given to them.  In fact, I admire every teacher that dedicates their career to helping our kids.  Sorry if my comment sounded bad.

Posted by Stephanie Edwards-Musa, knitwit at thred UP ( almost 12 years ago

Oh, no, that didn't even occur to me, Stephanie!  I was just exploring the fascinating (to me!) topic that Donna opened up and sharing some of my experiences/conclusions about it.  It was more, on my part, a recognition of the fact that if teachers (and there are more than just my family, a lot more) are homeschooling, then clearly there's another problem in the system somewhere that we need to find and address in order to untangle this knotted mess and fix things for our kids. 

It may simply be the basic concept that we can make our schools all things to all people and/or fit all of our wonderfully diverse and unique populace (which is one of the strengths of our country, I think, that we have all of that to draw from) into identical cookie cutters that can be easily tested.  That's not my idea of education, frankly, and it's one that's doomed to failure, too. 

Posted by Tricia Jumonville, Texas REALTOR , Agent With Horse Sense (Bradfield Properties) almost 12 years ago

Ok, I feel better now.  Thanks Tricia.

Thanks to both of you for sharing your thoughts.  Great Topic!

And Donna, please keep us posted on the baby!

Posted by Stephanie Edwards-Musa, knitwit at thred UP ( almost 12 years ago

Whenever someone says something that they think should be common knowledge, but that I have no idea about, I just say, "I went to public school."  It's been a running joke with my friends for many years... we all went to public school, but we all learned different things.

I'll definitely keep everyone posted about the baby, thank you!

Posted by Donna Harris, Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator (Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - almost 12 years ago
I was completely surprised to find that Mesquite Schools are more worried about if a kid has a belt on than they are about a kid not being able to spell - I know I could not live there without conflict with the schools
Posted by Thesa Chambers, Principal Broker - Licensed in Oregon (Fred Real Estate Group) almost 12 years ago

Hi Thesa!  I didn't hear back from you yesterday, and I'm heading out the door in a few minutes, so I'll call you when I get back from my next appt, probably around 1pm Central time.

As for Mesquite, granted, they did have a school shooting last week so they are concerned about the juvenile delinquents, but they're kinda just falling in line with Dallas ISD who won't allow baggy pants and other type clothing that distracts from learning.

Posted by Donna Harris, Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator (Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - almost 12 years ago

Not sure this new system with 12 tests is going to be any better.  There are always going to be kids that fail.  Some kids just don't work hard enough or know how to study properly.  I saw kids interviewed on the news last night lamenting the fact that they didn't pass the TAKS test and now they can't walk at graduation.  They had 5 chances to take the test and I think it is fair that they don't graduate if they can't pass. 

I took the TAAS test like you Donna and it was so simple.  I can't believe kids could fail it.  I went to private school in the Dallas area and it was a great education.  My freshman year in college was easier than my senior year of high school!!

Posted by Linda Box Taylor, Your Plano, TX Realtor (Castle Connections Realty) almost 12 years ago