Eastern Hills Middle School staff members rock out for students during a rally for TAKS testing at the school Monday. Students resume TAKS testing today.
Students at Eastern Hills Middle School rock out to “We Will Rock the TAKS” during a rally for TAKS testing at the school Monday. Students resume TAKS testing today.

By Andy Ross
Killeen Daily Herald

HARKER HEIGHTS — As Eastern Hills Middle School Principal Jamie Blassingame made her way down the hallway Monday afternoon, a load roar could be heard awaiting her in the gymnasium.

The cause for the commotion was the school’s TAKS rally, an event held each year at the outset of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test.

Just before she stepped into the rally — an affair that included motivational speakers, cheerleaders, band sections and EHMS teachers wearing purple wigs and capes — Blassingame explained the reasoning behind the event.

“The whole idea of the pep rally is to get into the spirit of doing well, whether that is on the football field or in a band competition or on an academic test,” Blassingame said.

Between now and Friday, students at EHMS and other public schools around the state will be immersed in TAKS, the assessment test used in Texas to gauge students’ attainment of core subject matter and ultimately to rate districts’ success.

But this year is also likely the last time that TAKS will be around. Beginning this fall, districts are scheduled to begin implementing the new assessment testing known as State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR.

The switch to STAAR, which was mandated as a result of legislation passed in 2009, is aimed at testing that is more rigorous and emphasizes college readiness to a larger degree than TAKS.

Killeen Independent School District administrators and teachers have reportedly been working to understand the coming changes for some time. But Blassingame said the preparation for this year’s final TAKS test has not substantially changed as a result of the coming switch to STAAR.

She said her teachers are still staying focused on “exemplary instruction” in the classroom and hope the test results speak for themselves.

“We know the standards are changing and we have tried to stay ahead of that curve,” Blassingame said. “We work hard in the classroom every day and believe the test results will follow.”