Texas students demonstrate mixed results on STAAR reading, math tests

3:58 p.m Tuesday, April 25, 2017 Local
STAAR math scores for fifth- and eighth-grade students showed improvement, but reading scores for both grades dropped.

Elementary and middle school students demonstrated mixed results this year in their performance on the first administration of Texas’ standardized tests.

STAAR math scores for fifth- and eighth-grade students showed improvement, but reading scores for both grades dropped.

Compared with last year, passing scores on the math test for both grade levels statewide were up 5 percentage points to 81 percent for fifth-graders and 74 percent for eighth-graders.

Reading scores dropped 2 percentage points among fifth-graders to 71 percent, and 3 percentage points for eighth-graders to 76 percent.

Students in the two grade levels must pass the exams to move on to the next grade. Those who didn’t pass the first administration of the tests will have two more chances to pass.

A more detailed breakdown of passage rates by school district wasn’t available Tuesday.

So far, this year’s administration of the exams have escaped last year’s litany of problems, which included the vendor missing the deadline to give districts retest scores, allegations of lost exams and a widespread computer glitch that erased students’ answers on thousands of tests. Last year’s issues were so pervasive that Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath dropped the requirement that fifth- and eighth-graders have to pass the STAAR to move on to the next grade, and the Texas Education Agency fined the vendor $21 million.

“The March administration went relatively smoothly, nothing on the scale that we saw last year,” Texas Education Agency spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said.

This year’s results come as lawmakers considered a bill Tuesday that would scale back STAAR requirements. House Bill 1333, backed by both Democrats and Republicans, would reduce the current number of state-mandated standardized tests, and reduce the effect STAAR results have on school accountability ratings. The bill also would allow districts to choose another assessment beside the state exams, if those tests comply with Texas curriculum standards, and would prevent students’ performance on the state tests from being tied to teachers’ evaluations.

New performance labels also are being doled out this year:

• Masters grade level.

• Meets grade level (passing but short-term intervention may be necessary).

• Approaches grade level (passing but targeted intervention is necessary).

• Does not meet grade level (unlikely to succeed in next grade).

While the labels don’t change the definitions of students’ performance, the Texas Education Agency said they are meant to provide a clearer picture of how well students are performing.

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