Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Texas TAAS Scores Revisited

Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Texas TAAS Scores Revisited

Article excerpt

Data based on all eligible Texas public school students reveals that scores from the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) reading and mathematics tests are more valid than Klein, Hamilton, McCaffrey, and Stecher (2000) implied. New analyses based on both individual student and school-level scores support the concurrent validity of the TAAS. TAAS scores are moderately to highly correlated with answers from the Stanford-9 reading and mathematics tests. In addition, analyses based on individual students and aggregated school scores support the nomological validity of TAAS scores. In contrast to the findings reported by Klein et al., economically disadvantaged students in the present study obtain lower reading and mathematics TAAS scores than students of higher socioeconomic status. Schools with a greater percentage of students qualifying for federal lunch assistance also evidence lower average performance on the TAAS. The present results indicate that the nonrandom sample of 20 schools available to Klein et al. (2000) led to findings unrepresentative of Texas students and schools.

Background

The Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS), a criterionreferenced educational achievement test, has received considerable attention in recent years. Results from the TAAS tests became the basis for evaluating the performance of individual students, teachers, schools, and school districts in Texas. Beginning in the spring of 1994, Texas students in grades three through eight and grade ten were required to take tests in reading and mathematics. In 2003 the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) tests replaced the TAAS as the foundation of the state=s accountability system. The new state mandated tests required additional testing in grades nine and eleven which had previously been excluded from taking the TAAS. Despite the fact that Texas now uses a different criterion-referenced test to measure what students have learned in school, there are several reasons to investigate the validity of scores from the TAAS. First, the Texas high-stakes accountability system was the foundation for the No Child Left Behind (2002) legislation, which attempted to implement throughout all states educational evaluation practices similar to those in Texas. Supporters of this legislation argued that educational reforms in Texas were successful because TAAS scores had increased during the latter half of the 1990s. However, critics of the Texas educational model argued that TAAS scores were invalid because school administrators and teachers focused only on a narrow curriculum devoted solely to TAAS questions (e.g., McNeil & Valenzuela, 2001). The observed increases in TAAS scores over time were attributed largely to teaching only to the tests, rather than an increase in "real" student learning. A RAND report by Klein, Hamilton, McCaffrey, and Strecher (2000) also argued that TAAS test scores were invalid.

Insofar as the Texas Education Agency has provided TAAS data to many researchers, analysts of TAAS data may find that their results will be challenged if the validity of TAAS scores is viewed as highly suspect. To illustrate, Allensworth (2005) and Shepard (2004) cited the Klein et al. (2000) study to indicate that educational findings based on TAAS scores are likely distorted and not believable. Given the prominence of the Klein et al. (2000) critique and the degree to which it is mentioned as challenging the validity of TAAS scores, it is worthwhile to reevaluate this RAND study's findings.

Klein et al. (2000) Study

Although Klein et al. (2000) did not state the explicit strategies used to gauge the validity of TAAS scores, they utilized the general methods associated with concurrent and nomological validation. To assess the concurrent validity of the TAAS reading and mathematics tests, Klein et al. administered the Stanford-9 open-ended math test, the Stanford-9 multiple-choice science test, and a hands-on science test developed at RAND to approximately 2000 fifth grade students in 20 public schools from one geographic region in Texas. …

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