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Is TAKS Too Intense?

When mom Stacy Bourns walked into her son’s future North Texas elementary school to get information about kindergarten, she found a gym full of third-graders. Their teachers were leading them in a rendition of the ’70s disco hit “I Will Survive.” But they weren’t getting pumped up for the next school basketball game. They were getting pumped up about “surviving” the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test. Passing rates on the TAKS test, which is administered to third-, fifth- and eighth-graders, as well as secondary school students, are a key factor in determining federal school funding, and even before third grade, students are feeling the pressure.

Michael Smith, assistant professor in the department of counseling and higher education at the University of North Texas Dallas Campus, says he routinely sees young children dealing with stress, including school-related stress. He says 8 is a young age for children to be subjected to rigorous academic testing.

“Children need to know they are loved, accepted and have value, irrespective of test scores,” says Smith. “I think that if children have this kind of support in their lives at home and school, they will be much more capable of coping with all the stressors in their lives, including the TAKS.”

Keisha Williams, a Dallas ISD teacher who lobbied against the TAKS, says the test discriminates against children who are not good test takers or who don’t deal well with stress. Williams, who teaches high school, says she has seen the test diminish students’ morale.

“I know kids who have dropped out of school, turned to different means of living instead of going to college,” she says. “They find out they won’t be able to progress through life because of one test.”