St. Mary's Law Journal


Texas’s use of the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) test as an accountability program has had numerous negative and far-reaching effects on minorities. Today, students in Texas public schools first take the TAAS test in the third grade. Students continue to take a form of the TAAS test each year, with the exit-level assessment initially given in the eleventh grade. Students must pass all four sections–Mathematics, English, Science, and Social Studies–in order to graduate and receive their high school diploma. Although devised to effectively motivate students, schools, and teachers with the goal of enhancing educational standards, the TAAS test has negatively affected minorities at a disproportionate rate. Thus, minorities are being deprived of opportunities for economic and social success. In GI Forum v. Texas Education Agency, the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas found prima facie evidence of a disparate impact in Texas’s testing scheme. Despite this finding, the court still held the TAAS test served a legitimate educational goal. The court reiterated the Supreme Court’s position that the state has the absolute right to implement and pursue educational policies it believes are in the best interests of its students. Therefore, Texas has the complete latitude to determine their own education policies. Nonetheless, equal protection, due process, and discrimination issues arise which challenge the validity and legality of these policies. Regardless of the constitutional determinations of the TAAS test, the legislature has work to do before Texas can ensure that its current assessment program proves both reliable and valid. Furthermore, in order to improve the opportunity for all children to achieve, Texas state courts must stop avoiding their role in protecting the disenfranchised from this level of discrimination and focus on meaningful education reform.


St. Mary's University School of Law