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What the TAKS Test Can Teach Us About Our Students
Unformatted Document Text:  the topic at hand, but are worth noting. In fact, one of the controversies, the claim that teachers teach to the test, actually helps us because it indicates that students have in fact been exposed to the curriculum and ought to retain the information. Our question then becomes: Have students retained this information? Fortunately, the Texas Education Agency makes all of its old TAKS questions available on line 8 . Prior to the fall 2007 semester I collected the social science questions given to 8 th , 10 th and 11 th graders in 2006 and selected fifty that focused the most on the Constitution, American Institutions and Procedures, as well as a handful of questions concerning general facts about American government 9 . I selected 2006 because freshman students who went to public schools would have taken the 11 th grade test. I also selected question from the 8 th and 10 th grade tests to ensure that enough questions related to government would be available. Table Two displays results from both fall 2007 and the recently completed 3 week mini semester this December and January 2007-2008. It shows the percentage of students who were able to correctly answer each of the questions and ranks the questions from highest to lowest. The overall results are good. The average correct was 75.3, a middle C. Students were able to answer 6 questions in the A range, 16 in the B range, 12 in the C range, 10 in the D’s and 6 in the F’s. Perhaps the most interesting result was that the questions that students could answer best were those that concerned constitutional issues, including civil liberties questions—which previous students were unable to define. Almost every student knew that Miranda Warnings were intended to protect the rights of the accused. Two other questions which scored in the 90s revealed an understanding of the unalienable rights of the individual and what they tell us about the relationship between the state and the individual. Most knew that the purpose of the Civil War Amendments was to secure the rights of African Americans, and a surprisingly high number knew that the colonial grievance against the King’s use of military authority led to the creation of a civilian headed military in the Constitution. Answers in the B range also indicated a high level of awareness of the relationship between the individual and the state, the justification of civil liberties, and the nature of checks and balances. Students knew what the result of Brown v. Board of Education was, the fact that 8  Click here for access to the tests: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/student.assessment/resources/release/index.html 9  Click here for the pre­test: http://www.alvincollege.edu/FACULTY/kjefferies/tests/TAKS­pretest.htm 9

Authors: Jefferies, Kevin.
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the topic at hand, but are worth noting. In fact, one of the controversies, the claim that teachers
teach to the test, actually helps us because it indicates that students have in fact been exposed to
the curriculum and ought to retain the information. Our question then becomes: Have students
retained this information?
Fortunately, the Texas Education Agency makes all of its old TAKS questions available
on line
. Prior to the fall 2007 semester I collected the social science questions given to 8
th
, 10
th
and 11
th
graders in 2006 and selected fifty that focused the most on the Constitution, American
Institutions and Procedures, as well as a handful of questions concerning general facts about
American government
. I selected 2006 because freshman students who went to public schools
would have taken the 11
th
grade test. I also selected question from the 8
th
and 10
th
grade tests to
ensure that enough questions related to government would be available. Table Two displays
results from both fall 2007 and the recently completed 3 week mini semester this December and
January 2007-2008. It shows the percentage of students who were able to correctly answer each
of the questions and ranks the questions from highest to lowest. The overall results are good. The
average correct was 75.3, a middle C. Students were able to answer 6 questions in the A range,
16 in the B range, 12 in the C range, 10 in the D’s and 6 in the F’s.
Perhaps the most interesting result was that the questions that students could answer best
were those that concerned constitutional issues, including civil liberties questions—which
previous students were unable to define. Almost every student knew that Miranda Warnings
were intended to protect the rights of the accused. Two other questions which scored in the 90s
revealed an understanding of the unalienable rights of the individual and what they tell us about
the relationship between the state and the individual. Most knew that the purpose of the Civil
War Amendments was to secure the rights of African Americans, and a surprisingly high number
knew that the colonial grievance against the King’s use of military authority led to the creation of
a civilian headed military in the Constitution.
Answers in the B range also indicated a high level of awareness of the relationship
between the individual and the state, the justification of civil liberties, and the nature of checks
and balances. Students knew what the result of Brown v. Board of Education was, the fact that
8
 Click here for access to the tests: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/student.assessment/resources/release/index.html
9
 Click here for the pre­test: http://www.alvincollege.edu/FACULTY/kjefferies/tests/TAKS­pretest.htm
9


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