TEA Questions TAKS Scores

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The Texas Education Agency is taking its first steps to try to identify cheating on the TAKS test. The agency paid a private testing security firm over $500,000 to help find irregular testing patterns.

The firm flagged over 600 schools. The 13 area schools are the Brazos School for Inquiry and Creativity, Bremond High, Centerville Jr/Sr High, A&M Consol High, A&M Consol Middle School, Cypress Grove Intermediate, Conroe High, Oak Ridge, The Woodlands High, Hearne High, Huntsville High, Navasota High, and Rockdale Elementary. The schools were identified by the TEA for irregularities in the way students answered questions on the TAKS test.

The testing security firm based their findings on 4 things. Similar test responses in the same classroom, a high number of erased answers, unusual response patterns, such as students missing easy questions and getting more difficult ones correct, and big improvements in test scores from year to year.

3 College Station schools, A&M Consol High School, A&M Consol Middle School, and Cypress Grove Intermediate, were flagged for *too much improvement in math and science scores.

"What we've done is gone back and looked at those schools and looked at the process we had. We're very confident that the gains our kids made we're just based on their merits. They're good students, our teachers taught them well," said Acting CSISD Superintendent, Eddie Coulson.

The TEA says just because a school is on the list, doesn't necessarily mean there's a problem. They are, however, investigating.

Some school officials say it feels like they're caught in a catch 22. There's trouble with the TEA if test scores are low and now it seems there's trouble even when test scores improve.

Coulson feels the TEA is simply doing its job.

"I think you have to put it in perspective. TEA has a responsibility to hold all school districts and all schools in the state accountable for the students performance," said Coulson.

School districts singled out by the TEA have been asked to conduct their own internal investigations and report findings. Those findings will then be cross referenced with the testing security company's report.