Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Texas Students Stage T-Shirt Protest of Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS)

(courtesy of a notice from Grandparent Coalition about a report from Marylanders Against High Stakes Testing and Susan Ohanian for the image)

These students make me hopeful for the future of our democracy!

by Kelly Melhart

Haltom City --Maeghan Gibson is fed up with the state's standardized test.

Focus on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills is encroaching on classroom learning, Gibson said. Instead of having high-level discussions, the Haltom High School junior honors student said she spends too much time taking practice tests and filling out work sheets.

So she and a few friends waged a silent protest Monday morning outside the school by handing out pre-sold green T-shirts with slogans including "Walking standardized test score," "I am not in the equation of my education" and "Total Annihilation of Knowledge and Skills."

More than 60 students planned to wear the T-shirts today and Wednesday, during TAKS testing. But the T-shirts, deemed disruptive by Principal Allen Roberts, were confiscated until the end of the day, and the students were told not to wear them to school.

The students' efforts earned Gibson a trip to the principal's office, where she was anything but quiet.

"We are losing out on discussion and activities that would promote higher learning," Gibson said.

The shirts, she said, were intended to get the attention of legislators. A test may be needed, but perhaps it should be given once when students enter high school and again when they graduate "to see what kind of improvements they made," Gibson said.

"Instead of measuring how they fail, measure how they improve. That's a great way to do a test," she said.

During the hourlong discussion in his office, Roberts told Gibson that he would help the students write a letter to state Rep. Bob Griggs, the former Birdville superintendent, outlining their concerns about the test.

The students said they were pleased with Roberts' offer to help. Roberts, who did not return a telephone call Monday, will also try to set up a meeting with Griggs, R-North Richland Hills, said Mark Thomas, Birdville spokesman.

The students are not in trouble, but the test will go on.

"The state mandates that we are going to give this test," Thomas said. "The students may not be happy under the pressure that they are feeling at this point. We've got to follow the law."

The exit-level TAKS test, which students must pass to graduate from high school, is first given in the students' junior year.

The students say their protest was not aimed at Haltom High School, teachers or the Birdville district, but rather at state and national policies that require the standardized test.

"It's turned into a real 'Grab a work sheet, go sit down and you have to know this or you will fail' kind of thing. That's not good for long-term learning, in my opinion," junior Chase Robinson said. "We want our teachers to advance our knowledge, not a test."

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