A test -driven accountability system in Texas: Principals' voices

Don Park Schulte, University of Texas at El Paso


The purpose of this study was to determine how principals in one Texas border county and in a comparison group of districts viewed the use of a test-driven accountability system (i.e., the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills or TAAS) to evaluate educational progress. One primary and 10 additional research questions guided inquiry about the perceived effects of the TAAS by school principals on curriculum and instruction, student achievement, and on the evaluation of school quality. The stress and pressure aspects of the test were also explored. ^ A questionnaire with both open- and closed-ended questions was employed to gain the views of principals regarding the research questions. Surveys were mailed to 304 building leaders with one follow-up distribution for nonrespondents. A 69% return rate was achieved. Once the questionnaires were collected, several statistical techniques were used in the data analysis. ^ This researcher found that principals from the Texas border county and from the comparison group reported slightly positive attitudes toward the instructional and curricular impacts of the TAAS. Principals also indicated that the TAAS enhanced student achievement and was a useful measure of educational progress. However, participants reported that the test caused increased pressure on administrators and teachers. ^ In response to open-ended questions, building leaders cited the diagnostic value, an instructional focus advantage and improved teaching practices as benefits of the test. Detrimental impacts of the TAAS, according to respondents, included excessive stress on teachers and students, and problems associated with seniors failing to graduate. Comparison group principals seemed particularly concerned with the inclusion of sub-groups, such as minority and low-income children, in accountability rating calculations. ^ Statistically significant differences were found between the comparison and border county principals. In terms of pressure caused by the TAAS, comparison leaders reported more stress than was reported by border county leaders. There were no statistically significant differences noted in the instructional and student achievement factors between these two groups. ^ Male and female principal attitude differences were also apparent. Male principals viewed the TAAS as being more restrictive in terms of forcing teachers to focus on memorization than female principals. Differences in responses were also present among school ratings. It was revealed that as school rating declined, principals of these campuses held stronger negative views regarding instructional restrictions caused by the TAAS. That is, principals of schools with Acceptable ratings viewed the TAAS more negatively than the principals of Exemplary and Recognized schools. ^ Leaders offered recommendations on ways to improve the accountability system. They suggested changes in test content, format and timing. Principals also recommended that test trickery and cultural bias be eliminated and that other forms of assessment be considered. ^ Recommendations were made for further research to examine the stress and anxiety effects of the TAAS, the issue of sub-group ratings, and the use of alternative assessments. It was suggested that practitioners take advantage of instructional benefits emerging from the use of the TAAS. Finally, it was recommended that principals provide greater input to the Texas Education Agency as new testing systems are developed. ^

Subject Area

Education, Tests and Measurements|Education, Administration

Recommended Citation

Schulte, Don Park, "A test -driven accountability system in Texas: Principals' voices" (2000). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI9995868.