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History of Standardized Testing in Texas

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  • 0:03 History of…
  • 0:45 The 1980s
  • 2:04 The 1990s
  • 2:46 The 2000s
  • 4:33 Criticism
  • 5:17 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Andrew Diamond

Andrew has worked as an instructional designer and adjunct instructor. He has a doctorate in higher education and a master's degree in educational psychology.

In this lesson, we'll examine the brief but tumultuous history of standardized testing in Texas. We'll cover how the tests have evolved, why Texas is so important in standardized testing, and how the state's policies have impacted the entire country.

History of Standardized Testing in Texas

You might be asking yourself why Texas is so important in the realm of standardized testing. Sure, it's big, it was briefly an independent country, and it's steeped in American mythology, but standardized testing?

There are two main reasons you should care about standardized testing in the Lone Star State. First, Texas had more than five million students as of 2014, which was second only to California's more than six million students. Second, and perhaps more importantly, Texas has a long history of implementing new and innovative educational policies. Frequently, as Texas goes, so goes the nation. Let's dive into the short but eventful history of standardized testing in Texas.

The 1980s

An all too frequent refrain in education is that students are graduating from high school with little in the way of tangible skills, and in 1979, the Texas State Legislature decided it was going to do something about this. The legislature decided that beginning in the 1980 school year, all schools would be required by law to test students on basic skills in third, fifth, and ninth grades. The test was dubbed the Texas Assessment of Basic Skills (TABS), and it assessed students' skills in reading, writing, and mathematics. Though students weren't required to achieve a passing grade on the TABS, if a ninth-grade student failed the test, he or she was required to retake it every year until passing the test or graduating.

In 1984, the legislature decided that the TABS wasn't rigorous enough, so it introduced the Texas Educational Assessment of Minimum Skills (TEAMS). Aside from being a more appealing acronym, this standardized test occurred more frequently and had higher stakes. Students were tested every other year, beginning with first grade. If a student didn't meet minimum standards in 11th grade, he or she would be allowed to retake the exam in 12th grade. If the student still failed in 12th grade, he or she wasn't awarded a high school diploma, a first for standardized testing.

The 1990s

In 1991, the Texas State Legislature decided that what its students were lacking was pressure, so it decided to change from assessing basic skills to academic skills with the introduction of the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS). This test was essentially the same as TEAMS, but it had higher standards for a passing grade and was now first administered in third, rather than first, grade. Like TEAMS and TABS before it, the test focused on reading, writing, and mathematics, though students alternated which tests they took based on grade. In the continuing tradition of TEAMS, students were still required to pass the 11th grade TAAS exam to graduate from high school.

The 2000s

While the TAAS assessment continued to be the standard exam until 2003, in 2001, the legislature again decided to up the ante on students. The new test was dubbed the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) and was far more rigorous than TAAS. Not only did it cover a greater number of subjects, adding social studies, science, and language arts to the traditional reading, writing, and mathematics, but the stakes for passing were raised. Unlike TAAS and the exams before it, TAKS had to be passed in third, fifth, and eighth grade to advance to the next grade. High school students were still required to pass the 11th grade exam to graduate.

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