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What the TAKS Test Can Teach Us About Our Students
Unformatted Document Text:  be treated in a similar manner, at least in the classroom, in order to make them more “sticky.” The caveat is that students may still not be knowledgeable of the subject beyond the ability to recite an answer. Simply being able to recite Miranda Warnings does not mean that one understands the importance of procedural limitations on the powers of police, though it’s a good start to being able to discuss the matter further. Some questions remain to be addressed, most importantly the alternative explanations about where political knowledge comes from, and whether this information can override information learned in class. It may well be that a full evaluation of the content of K-12 instruction reveals it to be exemplary, but that its lessons are drowned out by those learned at home or the media. I need to know this if I am to teach effectively. Conclusion I did not set out to write yet another diatribe against the ineffectiveness of K-12 education, though it seems like that’s just what I’ve produced. Beyond that however, this work raises a red flag about the dangers of assessments. I’ve demonstrated that my students are not able to engage in the work demanded at the college level, as I measure it by asking open ended questions. But I have also shown that the assessment instruments used by the state of Texas tell me that my students are prepared for college level work. The TAKS test misrepresents student performance. It overestimates student preparation, which simultaneously sets students up for failure and detracts from the quality of the college classroom. This should be taken as a warning for anyone attempting to develop assessment instruments for higher education. Is the instrument accurately measuring knowledge? And if it isn’t, why is that the case? Like many states with K-12 institutions, Texas schools are under pressure to demonstrate performance to legislators and the general public. Stories of manipulation abound. Generally these involve teachers changing answers, or drilling students on the actual questions prior to the distribution of the test. This is overt manipulation, but my results suggest that the entire operation covertly biases results in a way that overestimates teaching effectiveness. If so, is this done in a deliberate manner? Perhaps test designers are unaware that the tests feed answers to 16

Authors: Jefferies, Kevin.
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be treated in a similar manner, at least in the classroom, in order to make them more “sticky.”
The caveat is that students may still not be knowledgeable of the subject beyond the ability to
recite an answer. Simply being able to recite Miranda Warnings does not mean that one
understands the importance of procedural limitations on the powers of police, though it’s a good
start to being able to discuss the matter further.
Some questions remain to be addressed, most importantly the alternative explanations
about where political knowledge comes from, and whether this information can override
information learned in class. It may well be that a full evaluation of the content of K-12
instruction reveals it to be exemplary, but that its lessons are drowned out by those learned at
home or the media. I need to know this if I am to teach effectively.
Conclusion
I did not set out to write yet another diatribe against the ineffectiveness of K-12
education, though it seems like that’s just what I’ve produced. Beyond that however, this work
raises a red flag about the dangers of assessments. I’ve demonstrated that my students are not
able to engage in the work demanded at the college level, as I measure it by asking open ended
questions. But I have also shown that the assessment instruments used by the state of Texas tell
me that my students are prepared for college level work. The TAKS test misrepresents student
performance. It overestimates student preparation, which simultaneously sets students up for
failure and detracts from the quality of the college classroom. This should be taken as a warning
for anyone attempting to develop assessment instruments for higher education. Is the instrument
accurately measuring knowledge? And if it isn’t, why is that the case?
Like many states with K-12 institutions, Texas schools are under pressure to demonstrate
performance to legislators and the general public. Stories of manipulation abound. Generally
these involve teachers changing answers, or drilling students on the actual questions prior to the
distribution of the test. This is overt manipulation, but my results suggest that the entire
operation covertly biases results in a way that overestimates teaching effectiveness. If so, is this
done in a deliberate manner? Perhaps test designers are unaware that the tests feed answers to
16


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