Education agency to initiate TAKS anti-cheating measures
AUSTIN - The Texas Education Agency announced Jan. 25 its plans to add security measures in administering the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.
Random test monitoring, seating charts and scrambling the order of field test items on exams are among more than a dozen steps to be taken this school year, said Education Commissioner Robert Scott.
Some steps are supposed to make TAKS tests more resistant to cheating.
Other steps are designed to provide more information that can be using in investigations if allegations of testing irregularities arise.
One measure, for example, is to ask students in grades 9, 10 and 11, prior to taking tests, to sign a statement promising not to cheat.
TAKS measures reading at grades 3 through 9; writing at grades 4 and 7; English language arts at grades 10 and 11; mathematics at grades 3 through 11; science at grades 5, 10 and 11; and social studies at grades 8, 10 and 11.
Satisfactory performance on TAKS at grade 11 is a prerequisite to a high school diploma.
Panel to focus on accountability
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Speaker Tom Craddick jointly appointed members to the Select Committee on Public School Accountability.
SB 1031, passed last year during the 80th session of the Texas Legislature, required the creation of the select committee.
SB 1031 also changed the state's method of assessing high school student performance by moving from high-stakes exit-level tests to end-of-course examinations.
Committee appointees, who will study the issues and work on ways to achieve the goal of SB 1031, are:
Math teacher Susan Lewis, Northside Independent School District, San Antonio; Principal Dalia Benavides, South Elementary School, Midland Independent School District; Superintendent David Splitek, Lackland Independent School District, San Antonio; Superintendent Thomas Randle, Lamar Consolidated Independent School District, Rosenberg; and Deputy Superintendent Beto Gonzalez, Brownsville Independent School District.
Also, Ron Steinhart, former CEO, Bank One Commercial Banking Group; Salem Abraham, president and owner, Abraham Trading Co.; Sandy Kress, Commission for College Ready Texas; and Larry Kellner, chairman and CEO, Continental Airlines.
And, Rep. Rob Eissler, co-chair; Sen. Florence Shapiro, co-chair; Education Commissioner Robert Scott; Higher Education Commissioner Raymund A. Paredes; Rep. Diane Patrick; and Sen. Tommy Williams.
Census ballparks no. of voters
The U.S. Census Bureau on Jan. 31 released its annual estimates of the voting-age population in each state, so the Federal Election Commission gets a clearer picture.
Figures do not reflect citizenship status or voting eligibility.
Estimates for Texas are:
• Total number of residents, 23,904,380;
• Total population age 18 and older, 17,281,014;
• Percentage of population age 18 and older, 72.3.
In 2004 in Texas, 687,615 voters, or 4.27 percent of the voting age population, voted in the March Republican primary; 839,231 or 5.22 percent of the voting age population turned out for the March Democratic primary.
Voter status available online
The Texas Secretary of State's new "Online Voter Central" allows voters to check their registration status from their computers.
Texans who registered to vote using their driver license can check their status by supplying their driver license number and date of birth, or they can enter their Voter Unique Identifier, a code on their voter registration card, to check voting status and find polling locations.
Feb. 4 was the deadline to register to vote in the March 4 primary elections.
Guv issues disaster proclamation
Gov. Rick Perry issued a state disaster proclamation for 152 counties in response to wildfires.
The Jan. 30 proclamation allows affected counties to be eligible for state assistance.
Perry urged Texans to be extra cautious as conditions across the state remain favorable for wildfires to develop.