School administrators seem to be racking their brains about recently proposed changes to the 6-year-old TAKS test and are bracing themselves for what could be a big battle over the issue when the Legislature convenes in January

Those changes, suggested by State Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, who also serves as the Senate education chair, include the elimination of the TAKS test in secondary grades and replacing it with end-of-course exams.

“There are just too may unknowns,” said Rhonda Herrington, Palestine Independent School District’s director of curriculum and instruction. “We don’t know anything about it — like when the tests will be given or in what subject.

“They have just been so vague about the details, yet they want us to remain accountable,” she added. “While it might be OK to do away with the TAKS for secondary students, I don’t think end-of-course exams is the answer either.”

Westwood ISD’s Superintendent Dr. Ann Griffin said she had conferred with teachers as well as fellow superintendents about the issue — both groups had qualms about end-of-course tests.

“We posed a lot of questions with our Region VII representative to take to the state board about the issue,” she said. “Everything that happens will depend on what the state says.”

Griffin did see a few advantages to offering end-of-course exams, including more dedication to teaching the course at hand, and more responsibility for the students in learning the material.

“End-of-course tests would let us have more rigor when teaching in content areas,” she said. “Teachers wouldn’t have to review material from two or more years prior in addition to their current material.”

For example, the ninth grade TAKS math exams covers content from grades seven and eight as well as the current ninth grade material, the superintendent explained. Freshman math teachers currently find themselves having to stop and review previous years’ lessons prior to the test’s administration.

The big downside to the exams, Griffin said, would be determining how to work exams for graduating seniors, who would heavily rely on their test results for course credits and graduation.

“Except for that issue, I think end-of-course exams might be a good idea,” she said.

Sarah Thacker, Frankston ISD’s assistant superintendent, had her own set of concerns with making changes to the TAKS.

“We are all hearing just enough to be a little scared,” Thacker said. “I really don’t feel like the content currently on the TAKS would change on the end-of-course exams.

“Teachers have voiced concerns with me about only offering the exam on one day and tying the course credit to it without the chance for a retake,” she continued. “That is a scary prospect for a student and a teacher.”

Thacker said she did support leaving the TAKS the same for students through the eighth grade, and was not in favor of offering end-of-course exams to middle school or junior high students.

“There are just so many unknowns,” she said. “It will be interesting to see what the legislature does in January.”

Shapiro predicted lawmakers will pay a great deal of attention to education issues once the legislature convenes Jan. 9, even though lawmakers passed major education bills last spring as part of a school funding package.

“You never stop discussing education,” Shapiro said. “It’s got to be every session, and it’s got to be major — every session.”

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The Associated Press provided information for this story.

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Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at mrainwater@palestineherald.com