Texas Parents Sue Over Test Misuse

K-12 Testing

Parents in Waco, Texas have filed suit in state court against their local school district for using the state's achievement exam, the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS), as the sole factor in student promotion decisions. The lawsuit seeks to bar the district from using the test to hold students back in grade.


Parents claim that the assessment, which was originally designed to measure overall school performance, is being misused to measure students. The plaintiffs' attorney, Michael Roberts, explained that Waco's actions shift accountability from the school to the students, thereby violating state law.


Claimants also argue that use of the TAAS will act as an educational barrier to black, Hispanic and low-income students who usually score lower than white students on such tests. Roberts said the disparate impact of the TAAS upon Hispanic and black students raises the questions of equal protection and equality under the law (see Examiner, Fall 1997). The parents support using classroom performance to measure a student's ability, since these measures have a less discriminatory impact. In addition, parents claim, the policy violates confidentiality records by making individual scores public.


A state judge directed parents to exhaust all administrative remedies before taking the challenge to court. Plaintiffs appealed that ruling and brought the claim to the Texas Education Commissioner.


Waco is the only district now using the TAAS in this fashion. Governor George Bush has asked the legislature to enact a mandatory promotion policy based on TAAS scores (see Examiner, Spring 1998).