NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

What is the Answer

March 5, 2003

This week, more than 300,000 third-graders will take the reading portion of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS). For the first time, those who can't pass a standardized test will face real consequences: They won't be allowed to go to fourth grade.

  • State officials say about 45,000 kids will walk out of their classrooms having earned a failing grade on the TAKS.
  • What's unclear is how many of those 45,000 will really end up repeating third grade.
  • The idea is to curb social promotion, the act of pushing children from one grade to the next simply because they're a year older, not a year wiser.

The social promotion standard was part of the Student Success Initiative launched by the legislature and Gov. George W. Bush in 1999. The initiative paid for extra teacher training, gave more money for early reading programs and required schools to target weak readers at an early age.

In all, the state has spent more than $500 million on the program. Tuesday's test is the enforcement part of all that spending.

Students will need to answer 20 of the 36 test questions in order to pass. If they do, their school year proceeds as normal. But if they don't:

  • Students will be put immediately into an intense reading instruction program for five weeks.
  • On April 30, those who failed will retake the TAKS. If they fail again, they'll be expected to attend summer school.
  • Finally, after summer school, two-time failers will be tested a third time.

After three failures, a grade placement committee made up of his parent, teacher and principal will decide whether or not the student is retained.

Source: Joshua Benton, "Effort against social promotion faces a test: TAKS scores to dictate who moves on, but exceptions are possible," Dallas Morning News, March 3, 2003.


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