By Rebecca LaFlure
Killeen Daily Herald
Throughout the state, students will begin testing today for the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills – a standardized test students, teachers and administrative officials anxiously prepare for every year.
Students in grades three to five and seven to 11 will take the reading and writing portions of the TAKS test this week.
Evaluations in math, science and social studies begin in April.
"Every single student is assessed according to their enrolled grade level, and it's a requirement of the federal government and the State of Texas to see that students are performing and achieving as expected," said Teresa Daugherty, Killeen Independent School District's director of assessment and accountabilities.
And a lot is on the line.
This single assessment serves as the basis for school district ratings, campus evaluations and determining if a district meets federal requirements under the No Child Left Behind legislation.
For third-, fifth- and eighth-graders, failure to pass certain portions of the test could result in being held back a grade.
It could also decide if a high school senior can earn their diploma in May. All high school students must pass a TAKS exit level exam before graduation.
Daugherty said KISD has a new series of goals for each annual exam cycle.
"We definitely want to improve our math and science scores, those are our focus areas," Daugherty said. "We want to meet adequate yearly progress, and we'd certainly love to be a recognized district."
KISD's TAKS scores have consistently improved since 2003, with math and science being the district's weaker points.
According to the Texas Education Agency, 72 percent of KISD students met the standard for science in 2008, up by 32 percent since 2003.
Seventy-seven percent met the standard for math the same year, up by 23 percent, and 91 percent of students met the reading standard in 2008, up by 19 percent from 2003.
KISD is currently rated as an academically acceptable district based on last year's TAKS scores.
In order to enhance student performance on the TAKS, KISD schools have several tutorial programs during lunch, after school and Saturdays.
KISD teachers also conduct a series of benchmark tests throughout the school year, Daugherty said.
"They're doing everything in their power to get those kids to learn what they're going to be tested over," she said. "They have a curriculum they've been following."
Clifton Park Elementary School held a TAKS pep rally Monday as a fun way to practice for a serious test.
Students and teachers performed skits and songs about test-taking strategies.
Copperas Cove ISD has been preparing for the TAKS test as well, said Debra Hull, CCISD's director of assessment, records and textbooks.
"We have been giving bench mark tests on a regular basis for all grades, and providing small group tutorials for students who are not doing well on the bench-mark tests with interventionists and tutors working with them," Hull said. "We try to promote positive attitudes and test-taking skills."
She said CCISD would also like to improve in the areas of math and science, particularly within the economically disadvantaged subpopulation.