Teachers Complain; State Scales Back Field Testing

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AUSTIN — The Texas Education Agency said it will reduce the amount of field testing in public schools this year in response to complaints that the rough-draft exams take up too much time.

The agency has informed district superintendents that its cutting back field testing by 46 percent for the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills and by 51 percent for the new end-of-course exams that will be administered to high school students starting in a few years.

The field tests are used to help analyze the fairness of questions for future exams. The results don't count.

"We are making a concerted effort to reduce field testing as much as we can without hurting the validity of the testing program," TEA spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe said. "We've been hearing from a lot of our educators who want us to find ways to cut back on field tests."

State lawmakers had also asked the agency to find ways to reduce the amount of field testing.

"Dallas teachers will be yelling 'Hallelujah. It's about time,'" said Aimee Bolender, president of the Alliance AFT in Dallas. "Field testing has been a huge problem in Dallas. Our teachers complain that they lose as much as six weeks of instructional time a year on testing and preparation for tests."

The education agency said fewer campuses will be required to participate in field testing. Last year, field tests for the TAKS were administered at 2,350 campuses. This year, 1,278 schools will administer the field tests' sample questions.

The number of students participating in field testing for the TAKS will reduce from about 478,000 students last year to about 258,000 this year, according to the agency.

The number of students participating in field testing for the new end-of-course exams will be reduced from about 149,000 to about 73,000.

A study by the education agency two years ago found that nearly 1.3 million students took part in field testing in Texas schools between 2003 and 2005.