Texas Test Sued in Federal Court

K-12 Testing

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) has filed suit in federal district court against the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) high school exit test. The suit was filed on behalf of two organizations representing Mexican Americans and seven individuals who represent the approximately 7,500 students who are denied a high school diploma each year because of low test scores.


The litigation is a direct challenge to the misuse of the TAAS test as an absolute requirement for receiving a high school diploma, regardless of other academic achievements of the students, explained MALDEF attorney Al Kauffman. We cannot permit the continuation of a practice that allows one point on a standardized test to end a student s educational and economic development.


To earn a high school diploma in Texas, a student must pass the reading, writing and math portions of TAAS. The test is first given to tenth grade students.


Whites are almost twice as likely as Mexican Americans and African Americans to pass the exam. Students with limited English proficiency are particularly likely to fail. The lawsuit argues that the test contributes to the very high dropout rates among Mexican and African Americans, and that students who do not pass the TAAS on an early administration are often placed in remedial tracks which focus on test preparation but which fail to prepare students for college or other post-secondary opportunities.


The complaint alleges that TAAS violates various constitutional and statutory provisions, as well as previous court orders which require districts to provide equal educational opportunities to all students and remove vestiges of a segregated, dual school system.


Plaintiffs are requesting an injunction to prevent the state from using TAAS as a requirement for high school graduation and from using any standardized test as an absolute requirement for receipt of a high school diploma. It adds that if TAAS or a similar test is used in determining high school graduation, it be no more than a minor factor.


The complaint charges that TAAS is an invalid instrument for determining which students are qualified to receive diplomas. The bases for this claim include:

  • the state does not provide all students with an equal opportunity to acquire the skills needed to pass the TAAS;
  • the test does not properly assess what minority students are actually being taught in high school;
  • the writing test is too unreliable for making decisions;
  • the test contains individual questions that affect different ethnic groups differently;
  • it disfavors LEP students by assessing linguistic subtleties in English rather than their competency on what was actually taught in the classroom ; and,
  • the exam lacks evidence to support the contention that students who score at or above the cut off score... are any more qualified or deserving of a high school diploma than those who score below the cut off score.