STAAR Testing

The results from the STAAR test (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) for the 2014-2015 school year look promising. The STAAR and end of course tests are the standardized exams the state of Texas uses to measure the performance of students in public schools throughout the state.

Overall more than 70% of students in the state passed the exam. The STAAR test is administered in grades 3 through 8, with each grade level testing in math and reading. Writing is tested in fourth and seventh grade, while science is examined in fifth and eighth grades. Social studies is evaluated in eighth grade. High school students take end of course exams, which means now they are actually evaluated on the material they learned that specific school year. In previous years when the TAKS test was administered, all students in the same grade level took the same exam. So, all 10th graders took the same math exam, regardless of if they were taking a remedial course, algebra, geometry, or pre-calculus. The only exceptions were accommodations made for students with individualized education plans or limited English proficiency. Now the end of course STAAR exams evaluate what students learned in the class they took that academic year, meaning students who took algebra take the algebra end of course exam. Of course, accommodations and modifications are still made for students with limited English proficiency or individualized education plans.

If students do not pass the STAAR, they have two more chances. As a result, the overall passing rate for exams increases as the year progresses. For example, after the first administration of the English I end of course test, the passing rate was only 54.4%. After all three administrations, the rate jumped to 72.6%. Interestingly, the overall passing rate for end of course assessments was lowest in English. Algebra, biology, and world geography passing rates were all above 80% after the third administration.

Most people find the scoring of the STAAR exam to be very confusing. The scores are scaled, and there are 3 levels. Level 3 is considered advanced, Level 2 is satisfactory, and Level 1 is unsatisfactory. In addition, the standards to pass the exam will increase over the next years. For example, this year the minimum score for Level 2 (satisfactory) for the English I end of course test is 1875. However, over the next 2 years, the minimum score to reach Level 2 will increase to 1950, and after that, it will be 2000.

It is important to note that although the test scores for this year should be considered positive news, the districts, teachers, and students still face challenges. This is because, as mentioned above, the standards to pass will increase over the next years, making it more difficult to pass the exams.

Since students must pass exams in each subject area in order to graduate, there is high pressure on high school students, teachers, and administrators. To graduate from high school, students must pass 15 end of course exams. Many people feel that is extreme, and the Texas Legislature is planning to consider reducing the number of end of course tests. Rick Perry has also stated that he supports evaluation of the standardized tests students in Texas must take. It remains to be seen what will happen with state testing, and although the exams may be amended or reduced, it is highly unlikely that the exams will be drastically altered or eliminated.