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Home | Tag Archives: Texas STAAR test

Tag Archives: Texas STAAR test

Is STAAR too hard on young readers? The standardized test is in lawmakers’ crosshairs again.

Texas’ unpopular statewide standardized test is once again caught in legislative crosshairs, this time after a controversial Texas Monthly article has questioned whether the test was evaluating elementary and middle school students based on reading passages that were one to three grades above their level.

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath, along with academic experts and educators, will appear before the House Public Education Committee on Tuesday to answer questions about the test, known as the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR. Then, the panel will consider a slate of bills proposing slashing the number of state-required STAAR exams.

Educators and parents have been arguing for years that the STAAR is too high-stakes and an inaccurate measure of whether students are academically succeeding. Lawmakers have generally been sympathetic to this argument, passing laws over the last several years to drastically reduce the number of required exams and shorten the length of some assessments.

But the Texas Monthly story has brought a new round of scrutiny. The article is based on two studies, from 2012 and 2016, which ran test passages through formulas designed to analyze their complexity and found they were generally too challenging for students. Education advocates are pointing to the studies to argue that the state is wrongly judging whether students can read at grade level, placing them in needless remedial instruction and unnecessarily penalizing schools and districts.

Student scores on the STAAR are the main component in determining school and district ratings, and part of determining whether students have learned enough to move up a grade or graduate. In 2018, just 46 percent of Texas students were at or above grade level for reading or English.

“Politically, there’s probably more of an appetite this session to do something about STAAR,” said state Rep. Gary VanDeaver, R-New Boston, a member of the House Public Education Committee. “What that is remains to be seen.”

VanDeaver will present a bill to the committee Tuesday rolling back the number of state-required STAAR exams, closer to the federally-required minimum.

“This new information coming out certainly gives us an opportunity to push the pause button and do some real research” on STAAR’s merits, he said.

Texas Education Agency officials, meanwhile, are defending the test. Two days after the Texas Monthly article was published, the agency sent a letter to lawmakers saying that the formula used in the studies is “inappropriate” for judging whether STAAR exams are on grade level.

That formula — called a “Lexile measure” — uses factors such as the number of syllables per word to judge the complexity of a book or passage. Generally, teachers use Lexile measures to match students with texts that match their reading ability or monitor whether their skills are growing, according to Eleanor Sanford-Moore, senior vice-president of research and development for MetaMetrics, which owns Lexile.

Lexile measures are not used to match a text to a certain grade level, and they have limited use in determining whether a state assessment like STAAR is grade-appropriate.

“These types of [state standardized] tests will have a range in the difficulty of passages so that students of differing ability levels can have access to passages at their reading level,” Sanford-Moore said in a statement to the Tribune.

But advocates argue that teachers are expected to teach grade-level text in the classroom, and use Lexile measures as one piece of evidence showing whether students are succeeding.

“If you have a kid and you’ve told their parents in parent conferences that their student is doing well, they’re making progress, they’re reading on grade level, and here’s all the data we have to show your student is doing well — and then it comes back with the label of approaches grade level? That is confusing to teachers,” said Dee Carney, associate at consulting firm Moak, Casey and Associates, and part of the coalition calling for the state to reconsider using STAAR.

Author: ALIYYA SWABY – The Texas Tribune

Superintendents: Texas Schools Shouldn’t Be Rated on 2016 STAAR Tests

This year’s STAAR testing scores should not be used to rate schools or determine whether a student should graduate or advance to the next grade, the head of the Texas Association of School Administrators wrote in a letter to Education Commissioner Mike Morath this week that outlined widespread problems with how this spring’s tests were delivered, scored and administered.

“The numerous testing irregularities reported this year do not encourage confidence in the accuracy of student scores, the fairness of the administration across all student populations, or in the security of student identifiable information,” the group’s executive director, Johnny Veselka, wrote in the letter. “Assigning accountability ratings based on such data will only compound the situation and will not reflect a true snapshot of either Texas students or schools.”

Issues first surfaced during the March administration of the STAAR exams, when school districts reported problems with online tests that caused students to lose answers. More than 14,000 exams were impacted by the computer glitch, Morath announced early last month at a State Board of Education meeting, calling the problem “simply unacceptable.”

The 14,220 exams affected by the computer glitch will not factor into school ratings under the state’s accountability system, Morath told the 15-member board. However, he has said all the other exams administered still would.

“We’re continuing to gather data from the field on issues associated with this year’s testing administration so you know we have to have evidence, somewhat hard evidence, that test results might not be valid,” Morath told the Tribune on Thursday, noting that tests are still being administered this week. (Eighth-graders take social studies exams Thursday, and all make-up exams must be administered by Friday.)

“Testing is an emotional issue and I think a lot of people have emotional responses to it, but we’re trying to make decisions based upon the best evidence,” he continued.

Asked what would happen if the state finds hard evidence of invalid test results, Morath said it would depend but that “we are very much open-minded in our focus on trying to do what is in the best interest of our students.”

Several other STAAR testing problems have emerged since the computer glitch in March, including inaccurate scoring and tests being shipped to the wrong location. The group’s letter to Morath details dozens of issues based on a statewide survey of school districts. They include districts receiving test results for students not enrolled in their district and improper handling of sensitive student information, including Social Security numbers.

While certain problems are bound to arise when administering a test to millions of students, “what is unprecedented this year is the scope and magnitude of issues associated with the STAAR administration that affect students, teachers, and administrators,” Veselka wrote in the letter to Morath.

But many of the problems cited in the letter affected only a small number of students and so may not be representative, Morath said Thursday.

“That can pretty quickly fill up an eight-page letter from TASA,” he said.

This is the first school year that New Jersey-based Educational Testing Services developed and administered the STAAR exam after the state scrapped its longtime contract with London-based Pearson, which had held the contract since Texas began requiring state student assessments in the 1980s. ETS is known for administering the graduate school admissions test, known as the GRE.

The company has ignored requests for comment or deferred to the state education agency.

The state is penalizing the company for the computer glitch and will reconsider its contract if the issue that caused it is not resolved by this month, Morath told the 15-member education board in April.

“That’s something we continue to monitor,” Morath said Thursday when asked whether the issues had been resolved. “We continue to gather feedback pretty aggressively to try to resolve any issues that are found and to ensure that ETS is fixing the various issues that they had in the last testing administration.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with comment from Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath.

Author:  – The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues

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