New survey shows widespread discontent with STAAR


Most Texans don’t want a state standardized test for public school students anymore, particularly if it penalizes teachers and students for poor performance on the tests.

The findings are from an online public survey about the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) and how the state uses the test results to hold students, teachers and school districts accountable. More than 27,000 students, parents, educators, business leaders and others responded to the survey, which State Board of Education Chairwoman Donna Bahorich spearheaded. The respondents were self-selecting; it was not a random sampling of people.

On Friday, the board is expected to approve the results of the survey, which will then be shared with lawmakers who could change the state’s assessment and accountability systems next legislative session.

STATESMAN INTERACTIVE: Central Texas STAAR passing rates

“Texans believe we have too many tests, schools are spending too much time preparing for the state assessments, and too much class time working on the preparation,” Bahorich said in the report released this week. “They want more immediate tests results.”

Between October and March, Bahorich also conducted nine community meetings across the state about the STAAR and the accountability system.

Survey results

The survey’s findings include:

  • 63 percent favored getting rid of a state test for a national test like the SAT, ACT or the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, which is used by several states
  • 87 percent favored students and teachers getting immediate feedback on tests
  • 97 percent want a test that doesn’t have trick questions or developmentally inappropriate questions, many of which critics say are found on the STAAR

     

     

  • 80 percent support allowing students to graduate or move on to the next grade even if they fail the test. Fifth and eighth grade students must pass the STAAR to move to the next grade and high school students must pass five STAAR end-of-course exams to graduate.
  • 87 percent favor reducing the role of assessments in teacher evaluations
  • 94 percent want better ways to test students with special needs

 

READ: Texas special education test scores suffer

Most of those surveyed also supported reducing the amount of material that students are tested over and decreasing teaching to the test. Most did not think the STAAR and the accountability system increased student awareness of career and college readiness.

Next steps

Raymund A. Paredes, the state’s higher education commissioner, told the State Board of Education on Wednesday that “Texas state tests are not strong enough” to measure how prepared high school students are for college or careers. According to national tests like the SAT and ACT, about a third of Texas students are college-ready.

COMMENTARY: A Texas teacher’s take on what is wrong with the STAAR

Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability — a group tasked with making recommendations to the Legislature about changes to the STAAR and accountability system — is also examining the public input.

The commission will meet next week to whittle down 53 of its preliminary recommendations, many of which would address the public’s concerns.

The preliminary recommendations include abandoning the STAAR test for the SAT, ACT or the state’s Texas Success Initiative test for high school, allowing districts to choose a test other than the STAAR from an approved state list and removing the requirement to pass the STAAR to graduate or move on to the next grade level.

“Our main concern is that currently the STAAR test really measures what kids bring to the classroom, so if you come from a family…where you were nourished in your learning and didn’t have parents that worked several jobs, chances are you are going to do better on the test than a child who might comes from a poorer background,” said Theresa Treviño, a member of the commission and head of Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment.

The commission also recommended not counting the 2015-2016 STAAR results against school districts and students after school officials ran into problems when administering the test this year. They reported a computer glitch that erased 14,200 student answers and testing forms filled out with incorrect information and sent to wrong addresses.

According to preliminary results, elementary and middle school students saw little improvement on most Texas standardized tests this year, amid more rigorous passing standards.


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