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2008 - APSA Teaching and Learning Conference Pages: 29 pages || Words: 7628 words || 
1. Jefferies, Kevin. "What the TAKS Test Can Teach Us About Our Students" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the APSA Teaching and Learning Conference, San Jose Marriott, San Jose, California, Feb 22, 2008 Online <PDF>. 2020-02-22 <>
Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: Now that the age of assessment is upon us, a conversation ought to begin on assessment design, especially on assessing students entering introductory government classes. Since various positions exist concerning the purpose of the introductory classroom, there is no reason to expect agreement on what should be assessed, but I argue that we should focus on knowledge of the basic facts of American government. Such knowledge is a necessary precondition for critical thinking, but no mechanism exists that ties the knowledge base of high school graduates with what is expected in college. As a proxy, I use publicly available questions that were included in previous TAKS tests (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) as a pre test in order to determine what students had been taught in K-12 and what information they had retained. I not only find that my students are not able to perform at an adequate level, according to my criteria, I find that TAKS questions tell me that they can. This reminds us to be careful about the quality of the assessments we design. I argue that the purpose of the introductory classroom ought to be ensure that students can participate in the deliberation necessary for effective citizenship and that assessment instruments ought to focus on the knowledge which allows for such citizenship. In addition, the assessment test can be used as an effective device to study basic cognition.

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