Public School Accountability System:
Texas Assessment Of Academic Skills (TAAS)
Responsibilities and Duties of the State Board of Education
The State Board of Education is composed of 15 members elected from districts at biennial general elections. 32 Board duties are restricted to those duties assigned by the constitution or Education Code. 33 The board must:
- establish a procedure for placing on probation or revoking a home-rule school district charter as required by the Education Code. 34 Home-rule charters can be revoked if the district fails to comply with federal or state laws or rules. 35
- perform duties in connection with the public school accountability system as prescribed in Chapter 39 of the Education Code. 36
- establish by rule the essential skills and knowledge that all students should learn. 37
- create by rule and implement a statewide testing program that is knowledge- and skills-based to ensure school accountability for student achievement. After adopting rules, the SBOE must consider stability in the statewide assessment program before modifying the program. 38
- establish a statewide standard of performance considered satisfactory for student tests designed to measure students' skills and knowledge. 39
State Board of Education rules also specify that the SBOE will adopt a plan for assessment that complies with Education Code Chapter 39, Subchapter B (Assessment of Academic Skills) and that the adopted plan will remain in effect until legislation mandates its revision. 40
SBOE rules provide that the Commissioner of Education must ensure that the assessment tests meet acceptable educational testing standards. 41 According to SBOE rules, the Commissioner of Education must specify a schedule for testing and field testing that supports reliable and valid assessments. 42
SBOE rules require that before including any test item on an assessment test, each test item must be reviewed under secure conditions according to accepted standards for educational testing. Public schools assist with field testing and other activities necessary to implement the statutory assessment program requirements. 43
The requirements of Section 39.023 of the Education Code, which governs the adoption and administration of tests may be modified by SBOE rules adopted under Section 39.022 (Assessment Program). 44 Section 9 of Chapter 397, Acts of 1999 Legislature, however, provides the "Commissioner of Education shall adopt rules for the implementation of Section 39.023, Education Code, as amended by this Act." 45 These provisions might create confusion over who is responsible for adopting rules to implement Section 39.023.
Testing Accommodations and Exemptions
SBOE rules state that all nonexempt students must take the TAAS. 46 Exceptions are made for some special education and Limited English Proficient students.
- Special Education students - TEA must develop an appropriate test for special education students; the State Developed Alternative Assessment (SDAA). The SDAA will be first administered in 2001 to students in grades 3 through 8. The test can be modified with the assistance of the student's Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) committee. 47
Special Education students whose individualized education plan (IEP) includes instruction in the essential knowledge and skills specified in Section 28.002 must be tested. If the student is taught on grade level then the TAAS will be administered. If the student is not being taught on grade level or requires testing accommodations that would invalidate the TAAS, then the student will take the SDAA. Students not being taught the TEKS at any grade level can be exempted from testing. 48 SBOE rules require that any student not tested by a state-developed test participate in an appropriate assessment at the local district level, as determined by the ARD committee.
Special Education students may be exempted from the exit-level test if their IEP does not include instruction in the essential knowledge and skills, or the test with modifications would not appropriately measure that student's achievement, as determined by the student's ARD committee. Again, any exempted student must take a locally determined assessment.
- Limited English Proficient Students - The board develops rules for administering tests in Spanish for students in grades 3-6 who are of limited English proficiency and whose primary language is Spanish. The language proficiency assessment committee, established in school districts required to offer bilingual education and special language programs, determines which students are tested in Spanish. 49 The board also develops rules for administering tests to LEP students who have primary languages other than Spanish.
Beginning in the 2000-2001 school year, SBOE rules, published November 26, 1999, limit this exemption to recent unschooled immigrants who have been enrolled for less than one year. 50 For the 1999-2000 academic year only, SBOE rules allowed an exemption for limited English proficient students if the student was an immigrant who had been enrolled in U.S. schools for three years or less. This "3 year immigrant" exemption expired August 31, 2000. 51 These changes were a direct result of legislation passed in 1999.
- Dyslexic Students - The board develops rules under which a dyslexic student who is not exempt from the assessment can use special procedures for taking the test, including oral examination, additional time, or special materials or technologies to demonstrate the student's mastery of the competencies. 52 Students with dyslexia or related disorders are not eligible for exemption unless they are special education students whose ARD committee determines testing is not an appropriate measure of their academic progress in accordance with SBOE rule.
SBOE rules permit testing accommodations on the tests, unless they would make a particular test invalid as a measure of school accountability. For example, the reading test cannot be administered orally because it is a test of reading. The decision to make a testing accommodation must take into consideration the needs of the student and the accommodation in classroom instruction the student routinely receives.
Permissible testing accommodations must be described in the appropriate test administration materials. 53 SBOE rules do not specify who is eligible for an accommodation, but the state statutes seem to restrict testing accommodations to special education, dyslexic students or students of limited English proficiency. 54 SBOE rules require each exemption or testing accommodation to be documented in the student's IEP. 55
The Commissioner of Education must develop and adopt a process for reviewing the exemption process of a school district that gives an exemption to special education students for grade level tests, if a certain percentage of students are exempted, based on the number of students at the school. Beginning in 2001 when the SDAA is available, a district's exemption process can be reviewed if the district gives exemptions to:
- more than 5 percent of the special education students, if the district has an average daily attendance of at least 1,600;
- more than 10 percent of the special education students, if the district has an average daily attendance of between 190 - 1,599 students; or
- the greater of 10 percent or at least 5 special education students, in the case of districts with an average daily attendance of less than 190.
SBOE rules require students of limited English proficiency to take the TAAS, unless they are specifically exempt. SBOE rules provide for only one exemption. Beginning with the 2000-2001 school year, an LEP student may be granted a one-year exemption from TAAS testing if the student is a recent unschooled immigrant, in which case the student is not required to take the TAAS tests during the 12-month period following the student's enrollment in U.S. schools. 56
A state statute allows further exemption for LEP students whose primary language is not Spanish. But SBOE rules restrict this exemption to recent unschooled immigrants who have been enrolled in U.S. schools for less than 12 months.
Inaccordance with SB 103, enacted by the 1999 Legislature, TEA has developed policy that requires that in grades 3-12, LEP students must take reading proficiency tests in English (RPTE) until the student has demonstrated English reading proficiency and is taking the TAAS in English. 57 The RPTE will provide a statewide, standardized measure of how well LEP students are developing the ability to read in English. When a student reaches the proficient level on the RPTE, then he or she will no longer have to take that test, only the English version of TAAS from then on.
Board rules provide that beginning with the 2000-2001 school year, LEP students in grades 3-8 must take the TAAS in English or Spanish as determined by the student's language proficiency assessment committee (LPAC). 58 Because Spanish-version tests are available only at grades 3 through 6, LEP students in grades 7 and 8 are therefore required to take TAAS in English.
SBOE rule 19 TAC §101.3 (g)(1) states that "In Grades 3-8, the LEP student shall take the assessment of academic skills in English or Spanish, as appropriate, unless the student is a recent unschooled immigrant, in which case the student is not required to take the assessment of academic skills during the 12-month period following the student's enrollment in U.S. schools."
The board's response to public comments on SBOE rule 101.3 appears to suggest that the board will make the Spanish TAAS available only for grades 3-6. However, the wording of the rule itself is confusing on this point.
SBOE rules allow the Commissioner of Education, upon written request, to annually grant to a school district the authority to administer the TAAS in Spanish to a student who is not identified as limited English proficient, but who participates in a two-way bilingual program. 59
If the language proficiency assessment committee (LPAC) authorizes a student to take an assessment in Spanish, the criteria for selection of the appropriate test must be documented in the student's permanent record file. Schools must make a reasonable effort to determine a student's previous testing history. 60
If a parent or guardian refuses to allow the LEP student to use the bilingual or special language program offered by the school, the LEP student must take the TAAS in English and must also take the reading proficiency test in Englishuntil the proficient level is reached. 61
TAAS Test Administration
The SBOE oversees the administration of the exit-level TAAS tests and adopts a test administration schedule. 62 Section 39.023 of the Education Code does not specify who is responsible for administering the grade level tests. SBOE rules provide that the Commissioner of Education establish TAAS administration procedures that are outlined in the test administration materials. 63
SBOE rules also provide that public and private schools administering the TAAS tests must follow the procedures specified in those materials. 64
The superintendent of each public school district or each open enrollment charter school and the chief administrative officer of each private school administering the tests is responsible for all testing activities, including scheduling testing; maintaining security; and administering the tests to each eligible student. 65 While the superintendent is responsible for test security, nothing in the current SBOE rule specifies that the superintendent is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the test administration processand reporting accurateresults to TEA. For example, SBOE rules defining prohibited conduct do not include manipulating test results or failing to accurately report test results. 66
The SBOE by rule may provide alternative dates for testing migratory children (as defined by 20 U.S.C. §6399). 67 Board rules specify that the Commissioner of Education may provide alternative dates for the exit-level and end-of-course tests to students who are migratory children and who are out of the state. 68 While the statute (Section 39.029) allows alternative testing dates for migratory children for any assessment instruments, the board rules seem to limit alternative testing dates to exit-level and end-of-course tests only. The rule does not say that alternative dates may be provided for the grade level TAAS tests.
SBOE rules allow school districts to adopt policies covering the local use of an end-of-course test. However, during the benchmark year and the subsequent school year, a school district may not adopt a policy that would allow a student to fail a course solely on the basis of failure on the state end-of-course test. 69
In addition to the tests adopted by TEA and overseen by the SBOE, local school districts may administer at any grade level tests that are economical, nationally recognized and state-approved. 70
The costs of preparing, administering or grading the state tests are normally borne by each school district, with the Commissioner subtracting the cost from the district's Foundation School Program fund allotments. The cost of releasing the question and answer keys to the schools is paid by TEA. 71
A company or organization may not distribute to, sell to, or grade for the same school district the identical form of a test for more than three school years. A school district may not use the same form of a test for more than three years. If a test company fails to comply with this requirement, the company is liable to the state for up to three times the amount of the cost charged to the school district for the test and grading.72
In addition to the TAAS, the local school board may adopt one appropriate, nationally recognized, norm referenced test in reading and mathematics to be administered to a select sample of students in the spring. If adopted, a norm-referenced test must be a secured test. A district that administers the norm-referenced test must report the results to TEA in a manner prescribed by the Commissioner. 73
The board is required to adopt rules that provide for the release of questions and answer keys to school districts for each test after the last time the test is administered for a school year. Questions do not have to be released if they were being field-tested for use in future years and were not used to compute a student's score. 74 SBOE rules require TEA, at the end of each school year, to release all test items used to compute a student's score, answer keys and written composition scoring guides for the TAAS. Field-tested items that have not been used on a test after 5 years must also be released. 75
Section 39.030 of the Education Code says that the SBOE and school districts must ensure the security of the tests when preparing, administering and grading; TEA is not mentioned in the statute.
SBOE rules define conduct that violates the security and confidentiality of TAAS as "any departure from the test administration procedures established by the Commissioner of Education." 76 Conduct that violates the security and confidentiality of tests may include the following acts and omissions:
- duplicating secure examination materials;
- disclosing the contents of any portion of a secure test;
- providing, suggesting or indicating to an examinee a response or answer to a secure test item or prompt;
- changing, or altering a response or answer of an examinee to a secure test item or prompt;
- aiding or assisting an examinee with a response or answer to a secure test item or prompt;
- encouraging or assisting an individual to engage in the conduct described above;
- failing to report to an appropriate authority that an individual has engaged in conduct that violates the security or confidentiality of tests. 77
SBOE rules provide that the superintendent of each public school district must develop procedures to ensure the security and confidential integrity of the TAAS tests and notify TEA in writing of conduct that violates the security or confidential integrity of the TAAS tests. 78
SBOE rules also provide that a person who violates the rules of security or confidentiality of tests may be subject to losing their teaching or administrative credentials. Furthermore, persons who fail to report to TEA any violations of security or confidential integrity of tests may also lose their credentials. 79
The TAAS Test Administrator Manual also describes sanctions for violating test security and integrity of TAAS tests. For example, the 1999 Test Administrator Manual says that "any person who violates, assists in the violation of, or solicits another to violate or assist in the violation of test security or confidential integrity, and any person who fails to report such a violation are exposed to the following penalties:
- a permanent reprimand affixed to the face of all Texas Teacher Certificates and other education credentials;
- a one-year suspension of all Texas Teacher Certificates and other education credentials; or
- a permanent cancellation of all Texas Teacher Certificates and other education credentials." 80
These sanctions are not expressly listed in the SBOE or State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) rules or the Texas Education Code.
The TAAS Test Administrator Manual provides that "[a]ny irregularities in test security or confidential integrity may also result in the invalidation of student results." 81 This sanction also is not included in the SBOE rules or in the Education Code.
TEA must notify school districts of the test results at the earliest possible date determined by the SBOE, but not later than the beginning of the subsequent school year. 82 If a test is given again because a student did not pass the first time, the results of the scoring must be returned to the school district within 10 days of receipt of the test materials. 83 This 10-day turnaround requirement refers to only those tests established under TEC§28.0211 at grades 3, 5 and 8 as part of promotion provisions, which begin with the 2002-2003 school year.
SBOE rules require the superintendent to report all test results to the local school board, with appropriate interpretations, according to the schedule specified in the test administration materials. 84 Overall student performance test data must be aggregated by ethnicity, sex, grade level, subject area, campus and district and made available to the public, with appropriate interpretations, at regularly scheduled meetings of the local school board.
The aggregated information may not contain the names of the individual students or teachers. A district may aggregate separately performance data of students in special education programs or bilingual or special language programs. 85 A company or organization that grades a test must report the results to the district and to TEA by campus and district, and in comparison to state and national averages, unless TEA requests a report of the results in another form. 86 School districts must report test results to each student and his or her parent or guardian. SBOE rules also require that all test results must be included in each student's academic achievement record (the official transcript), and must be furnished for each student transferring to another school. 87