by Coy Holcombe.
Each year, parents and students hear the terms TEKS and TAKS used in reference to educational issues. In some cases, the two can seem to mean the same thing; however, there is a world of difference between these two acronyms.
TEKS—Texas Essential Knowledge and Skill
TEKS are what students should learn during a grade level or course. Each grade level in grades K—8 have specific TEKS that teachers are expected to teach and that students are expected to master. In grades 9-12, each course has specific TEKS. At the lower grades, TEKS are written in concrete term. As the students progress from one grade level to the next, the TEKS become more abstract. Also, TEKS are written at a higher overall level than the old essential elements (the essential elements were developed in the mid 1980’s and were focused on basic skills). Not all subjects or courses have the same number of TEKS. Most subjects and courses have a reasonable number of TEKS; however, some English courses and some social studies courses seem to have an excessive number of TEKS; so many, in fact, that teachers have a difficult time in covering all the required material. The TEKS in these two areas, English and social studies, are being examined at the state level to try to ease this excessiveness.
TAKS—Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills
The TAKS test is the state accountability test that is based on the TEKS. The TEKS are taught throughout the year. The TAKS test is an attempt to gauge whether the TEKS have been mastered by our students. The TAKS test is basically a sampling of some of the TEKS at each grade level and each subject area. Many times, you hear people talking about “teaching to the test”. Since our teachers are required to teach the TEKS and since the TAKS test is taken from the TEKS, by definition, our teachers cannot help but teach the test. While this may sound like a negative situation, the alternative, testing the students on concepts they have not been taught, is even less appealing.