Texans Rally Against Testing

K-12 Testing

by Carol Holst


Three hundred Texans rallied at the state capitol in Austin on January 25 to demand an end to the high-stakes use of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS), which replaced the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills test (TAAS) this year.


Demonstrators, who chanted “More learning, less testing,” called for the Texas legislature to pass legislation filed by Rep. Dora Olivo requiring schools to consider multiple aspects of a student’s academic performance, including classroom grades, before making a decision to retain a child or deny a high school diploma. Under the recently adopted system, third graders must pass TAKS or face another year in the same grade, a policy soon to be imposed at other grade levels. High school students must also pass TAKS exams to receive a diploma.


The rally was sponsored by Texans for Quality Assessment in Education (TQA), headed by Dr. Elaine Hampton from the University of Texas, El Paso. It was the first rally of its kind in Austin, although Texas activists have previously sponsored smaller high-stakes-testing protests in various parts of the state. The keynote speakers were Joe Bernal of the Texas Board of Education, Rep. Olivo, and professors Angela Valenzuela and Linda McNeil, who compared Texas Education Agency’s accountability reports to Arthur Andersen’s Enron audits. Other speakers included TQA members, as well as representatives from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, League of United Latin American Citizens, and the NAACP.


Following the rally, author Susan Ohanian spoke about the dangers of the standards and accountability movement in education. She stressed the need for teacher and parent activism to reverse the harm to children caused by overemphasis on standardized test scores.


The successful rally received press coverage throughout Texas. TQA saw the demonstration as a first step in its campaign to stop TAKS misuse. Subsequent activity has included intensive lobbying to get the House to address the legislation. Proponents say it will pass if legislators vote on it, but the chair of the Education Committee, Kent Grusendorf, may bottle up the bill. Similar legislation passed the House last session, but Teel Bivins, who chaired the Senate Education Committee at that time, refused to allow it to the floor for discussion.


- For more information about TQA and the proposed legislation, visit http://www.texastesting.org (link no longer working), which includes a list of regional coordinators, or contact Brazoria County organizer Carol Holst at kceh@airmail.net.