• by María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • February 2000 • Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, Ph.D.

Editor’s Note: On January 7, 2000, a federal court ruled against the MALDEF lawsuit regarding the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS). The following is a statement by Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, executive director of the Intercultural Development Research Association, in response to the ruling.

We are extremely disappointed by Judge Prado’s ruling today. In his opinion, he stated: “The court has determined that the use of the TAAS examination does not have impermissible adverse impact on Texas’ minority students.” IDRA is deeply troubled at his suggestion that there is permissible adverse impact. IDRA has historically understood that all children are valuable, none is expendable.

The original purpose of the TAAS to hold schools accountable for excellence and equity in children’s education has served the children of Texas well. The high-stakes nature of the TAAS – using the test as a requirement for high school graduation or as the sole criterion for retention and promotion decisions – is where Texas went astray. Because they are more likely to attend schools with inadequate resources, minority and low-income students have borne the brunt of the consequences.

IDRA commends MALDEF for attempting to resolve this injustice and for MALDEF’s long-time commitment to the education of children, particularly minority children in Texas. Given the present focus on student performance, the state of Texas has developed a line of defense that assumes that resources are adequate, everything done by the school is proper and if a student fails to learn, the student and only the student must be held accountable. Thus, students have become scapegoats for educational failure.

The TAAS (and similar tests) should not be used as a sole criterion for determining success or graduation. A student with perfect attendance, completing all required courses, having the prescribed number of electives, making no grade lower than an “A” in high school, and attaining a perfect score on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) cannot graduate and receive a diploma if the TAAS score is below a certain level. Furthermore, the TAAS is not a valid measure since there is no way that the content of the test can be adjusted to represent the curriculum actually experienced by the student. It is dysfunctional and unfair to measure student competence in content that was not taught. IDRA supports approaches that use multiple factors such as coursework and grades to determine promotion and graduation.

Considering the limitation of the TAAS and the inability to determine who is responsible for poor performance, the diploma-denial penalty on the student is too severe and long-lasting. Students having met all graduation requirements other than passing the TAAS may spend the rest of their lives in a form of limbo.

To have a successful education system across the state, we must consider more than student performance (outputs) as determined by a single test. Clearly, the gains among minority and low-income students are the result of more than a TAAS-based accountability system. These gains are the result of multiple variables, including long fights for equitable school funding and decreased class size. We must ensure that adequate resources are provided (inputs) and that those resources are used appropriately (processes).

Comments and questions may be directed to her via e-mail at feedback@idra.org.

[©2000, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the February 2000 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]