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What the TAKS Test Can Teach Us About Our Students
Unformatted Document Text:  consider one here, how much time was spent out of school prior to entering the college classroom. This measures not only a student’s age, but also the amount of time they have been able to absorb experiences outside the classroom. It is also safe to assume that the older they are the more likely they are to forget what they had learned in K-12. Table Three shows the test results of students divided into groups showing how long they have been out of school. The vast majority had graduated within the previous three years. Nineteen had spent four years or longer outside high school. There were also three students who had earned GED’s and three who had been home schooled. The average score for all test takers was 76.7. Notice that students who graduated within three years of taking the test scored within 3.3 points of each other, the highest being the large groups of students who were two years out of high school (taking the course in proper sequence), and scored an average of 78.9. After that the number of individuals within each category drops significantly. There are single entries in most categories, so the results are not significant in any statistical sense. These are worth a look though because the single people that fit into each of these categories did in fact score quite well, many in the 80’s. The three students who did not complete high school, but obtained a GED did not do appreciably worse than high school graduates: 75. Of special note is the very high level of performance of students who had been home schooled. The three had an average score of 97. None would have taken the TAKS test, nor have been drilled to prepare for it. The same holds true for the GED students. Why did they do so well? Again, maybe the TAKS questions are not telling us anything significant. Perhaps one learns enough about politics and government by simply living an engaged life and paying attention to the news. Or perhaps we need to analyze the multiple choice questions themselves. Are they written in such a way that a person with reasonable analytical skills can figure out the answer by properly reading the question and the options provided? Question Wording A closer reading of the questions reveals an answer. Table Four shows the entire wording of three questions student answered at high rates, including the one they answered best: a question about Miranda warnings. Each is a multiple choice question, but the options listed are 11

Authors: Jefferies, Kevin.
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consider one here, how much time was spent out of school prior to entering the college
classroom. This measures not only a student’s age, but also the amount of time they have been
able to absorb experiences outside the classroom. It is also safe to assume that the older they are
the more likely they are to forget what they had learned in K-12.
Table Three shows the test results of students divided into groups showing how long they
have been out of school. The vast majority had graduated within the previous three years.
Nineteen had spent four years or longer outside high school. There were also three students who
had earned GED’s and three who had been home schooled. The average score for all test takers
was 76.7. Notice that students who graduated within three years of taking the test scored within
3.3 points of each other, the highest being the large groups of students who were two years out of
high school (taking the course in proper sequence), and scored an average of 78.9. After that the
number of individuals within each category drops significantly. There are single entries in most
categories, so the results are not significant in any statistical sense. These are worth a look
though because the single people that fit into each of these categories did in fact score quite well,
many in the 80’s. The three students who did not complete high school, but obtained a GED did
not do appreciably worse than high school graduates: 75. Of special note is the very high level of
performance of students who had been home schooled. The three had an average score of 97.
None would have taken the TAKS test, nor have been drilled to prepare for it. The same holds
true for the GED students. Why did they do so well? Again, maybe the TAKS questions are not
telling us anything significant. Perhaps one learns enough about politics and government by
simply living an engaged life and paying attention to the news. Or perhaps we need to analyze
the multiple choice questions themselves. Are they written in such a way that a person with
reasonable analytical skills can figure out the answer by properly reading the question and the
options provided?
Question Wording
A closer reading of the questions reveals an answer. Table Four shows the entire wording
of three questions student answered at high rates, including the one they answered best: a
question about Miranda warnings. Each is a multiple choice question, but the options listed are
11


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