by John Pearson
Tomorrow, March 5th, is TAKS day across the great state of Texas. Originally, the test was slated for today, the 4th, but this is an election year, and many schools (including mine) are being used as voting locations. I know Super Tuesday was a month ago, so we'll just call today, "Not Too Shabby Tuesday."
The Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills is the state standardized test, taken by students in grades 3 through 12. For some levels, passing the TAKS is a mandatory requirement for progressing to the next grade. This is true for third grade, which, if I hadn't mentioned it yet, is the very first time students are exposed to the test.
The pressure is pretty high on the kids, and TAKS day is long and stressful. It's an incredibly long day for teachers as well, as we have nothing to do but walk around the room, watching kids stare at their tests. It is a quiet day as well, as during the test we are allowed to say very little to the children. Any question they ask must be answered with, "Just do your best."
"How do you say this word?" Just do your best.
"I don't understand this question." Just do your best.
"I fell on my pencil, and now I'm bleeding profusely from the ear!" Just do your best.
Have I mentioned that the kids we are watching, yet not talking to, are not even our own kids? Oh no, we're no longer allowed to administer the TAKS to our own students, on account of some teachers cheating a few years back.
Now, I'd like to state clearly that I do not condone cheating in any way, but I especially oppose cheating when it is done moronically. When only thirty percent of your kids pass the state assessment one year, but the following year every one of those students not only passes, but achieves a perfect score -- that tends to raise some red flags.