By Wendy Gragg
Killeen Daily Herald
Students and staff are likely breathing a sigh of relief this weekend, having just put this years round of state tests behind them.
Other tests still lie between some students and the end of the school year. And some will even have to slip into test mode this summer, before the battery of assessments starts all over again next year. The tests come throughout the year, at all levels, with a laundry list of purposes.
Its a test world we live in, but its not a bad thing. Its to help children learn and grow, said Melanie Henson, executive director of curriculum and instruction for the Killeen Independent School District.
The highest-stakes test in this state is the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, which in some cases casts the vote on whether students move on to the next grade or even graduate. The tests wrapped up last week, except for students who dont meet the passing standard score and will be tackling the test again.
Henson is familiar with the TAKS-linked accusation that teachers teach to the test but said she thinks it is a phrase that has just hung on past its relevancy.
We would hope they are teaching the state curriculum, which the TAKS tests test, she said.
Henson said the perceived emphasis on TAKS is often a matter of how the teacher approaches test preparation in the classroom. TAKS may have a presence in the classroom throughout the year, but its with the purpose of familiarizing students with the tests.
TAKS has a format and we definitely want the students to be comfortable with that format, Henson said.
Another essential collection of tests, according to district officials, is the incremental tests. Campuses and teachers can access the data from these tests, right down to an individual students answers, including the incorrect answer that was chosen.
Officials say the incremental tests get the information to teachers early enough to make a difference in a students progression.
Testing is extremely critical to do with kids in various ways so teachers have constant information about a childs progress, Henson said. Tests help teachers see where students are and then meet their needs, she said. Assessment drives instructional decisions.
In some cases, students are even invited to undertake major assessments ahead of the game. The Duke Talent Identification Program offers qualifying seventh-graders the chance to take the SAT college entrance exam.
Nearly 150 KISD seventh-graders took the test this year. Twenty-five students received state recognition, scoring a minimum of 510 each on the math and verbal sections. Two KISD students, Dylan Janusz and Tyson Adams, scored on the grand level, with a minimum of 650 in both sections.
Dr. Susan Holley, KISD assistant superintendent for education services, relayed the outcome of the 2005 Duke TIP to the school board at a recent workshop.
Its a view of how they stack up with much higher standards, Holley said.
Trustee Dr. Scott Isdale said he would like to see the number of local Duke TIP participants grow from this years 148.
Dylan Janusz, an Eastern Hills Middle School student, is fairly nonchalant about the 1130 he pulled on the SAT.
The math wasnt too hard, but the English was pretty hard, all the words I didnt understand, he said.
He guesses you could say hes a good test-taker, but that doesnt mean he likes it.
I cant say I really like them, but I do them. I dont know one person who really likes taking tests, he said. The way I see tests, I just take them head-on and not rush it.
Contact Wendy Gragg at firstname.lastname@example.org