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Home | Tag Archives: texas staar

Tag Archives: texas staar

Judge Denies State’s Request to Toss STAAR Suit

After a group of parents sued the Texas Education Agency over the 2016 administration of STAAR exams, state lawyers argued this summer that the parents had no standing and asked the courts to drop the case.

This week, the first day of school for many Texas children, Travis County District Court Judge Stephen Yelenosky denied their request in a one-page order with no further explanation.

The decision, which comes after a recent hearing, means the lawsuit brought by parents from Houston, Wimberley, Austin and Orangefield — whose children were in the third, fifth and eighth grades last school year — will be able to proceed.

The lawsuit, filed against the education agency in Travis County district court, argues that spring 2016 State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness scores are invalid because the exams were not administered under parameters laid out in House Bill 743. The legislation, passed last year with bipartisan support, requires the state to design STAAR exams so that a majority of elementary and middle school students can complete them within a certain period of time (two hours for third- through fifth-graders and three hours for sixth- through eighth-graders.)

In court filings, state lawyers said the agency complied with the new statute and also asked the court to toss the suit due to lack of “harm” to students.

Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe said the agency hadn’t seen Monday’s order and so could not comment.

Education Commissioner Mike Morath, listed as the primary defendant in the suit, threw out all grade promotion consequences for fifth- and eighth-graders this year because of score delays under a new testing vendor, the filings note. They also say that students could have been advanced to the next grade by a graduation committee regardless of Morath’s decision, and that there are no such consequences for third-graders. The filing also says there is “no allegation any of the plaintiffs failed or were specifically harmed by the allegedly noncompliant test — or even that the length of the test affected the child’s performance in any way.”

But the parents would like to see all scores thrown out. Their lawyer Austin-area lawyer, Scott Placek, who hailed Monday’s decision as a “big victory,” said they will keep fighting until that happens.

“The judge said without qualifications they have the right to be there and they have the right to have their case heard and so we’re in the position now where the case can really go forward,” he said. “I think we’ll look to move the discovery expeditiously and get to trial as quickly as we can because kids are being impacted already as they head back to school.”

The decision comes the same day the crowdfunded plaintiffs, members of a grassroots group called The Committee to Stop STAAR, announced they had secured an education agency report via an open records request showing STAAR administration did not comply with the law.

Their lawsuit was filed amid a fresh and fervent wave of dissent against the STAAR exams, a more rigorous series of tests first introduced in 2012. It was fueled by widespread logistical and technical issues with this year’s administration under a new testing vendor, New Jersey-based Educational Testing Service, which has declined to comment on the issues.

Read more of our coverage related to STAAR exams:

  • More Texas school districts and charter schools are failing in 2016, though the number of individual campuses that received that label decreased.
  • A special panel recommending changes to the state’s public school testing and accountability system has stopped short of proposing that Texas scrap the controversial assessment regime known as STAAR.

Disclosure: Educational Testing Service has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Author:  – The Texas Tribune

State ups passing standards on school STAAR exams

It will get harder for Texas public school students to pass standardized tests this year, Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams announced Tuesday, ending speculation that new, higher standards might be delayed. But Williams said the state will ease into the tougher passing standards more slowly than originally planned.

Since they were launched three and a half years ago, scores have remained flat on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, exams, prompting some to guess that the state would again delay upping the number of questions students must answer correctly to pass.

The lag had already prompted Williams to delay implementation of the stricter standards, which were set to take effect two years ago.

But Williams unveiled a more gradual phase-in of the stricter standards to replace a stair-step approach he announced just last year that would have implemented more dramatic increases this year and again in 2018-19 and in 2021-22.

The so-called “standard progression approach” is designed to be gentler, Williams explained in a statement Tuesday, saying it “is intended to minimize any abrupt single-year increase … for this school year and in the future.”

The standards will progressively increase until the 2021-2022 school year when students will be required to perform at levels of “postsecondary readiness.”

Williams’ announcement was not unexpected. In remarks at a conference in Austin Saturday, Williams confirmed the increased standards, which had been set to take effect under a 2014 plan that delayed them for the 2014-15 school year.

Citing his remarks, the Texas Education Agency said in a statement this week that “the announced move should not have been a surprise to superintendents because the state has been at Level I for the past four years and the Commissioner had already advised several months ago that the state would be moving to the next higher standard.”

Tuesday’s announcement confirmed the launch of the Level II standards.

Still, critics said the move won’t do anything to help Texas students whose performance has not improved on the harder exams even with a laxer passing standard.

“I think it’s really kind of almost cruel to raise passing standards at such a time,” said Theresa Trevino, president of Texans Advocating for Meaningful Assessment, a statewide grassroots organization that has successfully pushed for standardized testing reforms.

Texas students in grades 3 through 8 must take two or more subject-specific exams under the testing regime launched in spring

photo by: Texas Education Agency This graph depicts the difference between the Texas Education Agency's previously proposed phase-in of tougher STAAR passing standards (blue line) and its newly proposed phase-in (orange line), which Education Commissioner Michael Williams says "is intended to minimize any abrupt single-year increase."
photo by: Texas Education Agency
This graph depicts the difference between the Texas Education Agency’s previously proposed phase-in of tougher STAAR passing standards (blue line) and its newly proposed phase-in (orange line), which Education Commissioner Michael Williams says “is intended to minimize any abrupt single-year increase.”

2012. STAAR is considered more difficult and rigorous than its predecessors.

Under the high-stakes system, some students are expected to pass their exams before advancing to the next grade level, and high schoolers are expected to pass five end-of-course exams (15 before lawmakers opted to reduce it) before receiving a diploma, although lawmakers created a major exception to that requirement earlier this year.

Passing standards on exams administered last year varied by grade and test.

That will remain the case under the new passing standards, said TEA spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe. “Students will have to answer one to two questions more correctly to pass” under the tougher requirements, she said.

“If we (had) stuck with our previous phase-in plan, they would have had to answer on average four more questions correctly,” she said, explaining that the agency thinks teachers and students have had enough time to adjust to the new regime.

“You can’t increase the standards without knowing that potentially the passing rate is going to decline, but hopefully with that extra year of instruction the scores will go up,” she said.

On the reading exam administered last spring, eighth graders had to answer 28 of 52 questions correctly to pass — less than 54 percent — while fifth graders taking the math exam had to answer 23 of 50 questions correctly or 46 percent.

Student performance on state standardized tests is a focus of a long-running school finance lawsuit involving more than two-thirds of Texas school districts pending before the Texas Supreme Court. During the trial, lawyers for the state said poor performance on the state exams the first time around was to be expected as schools adjusted to STAAR. School districts argued that they had not received enough resources to meet the new, more rigorous standards.

Author:  – The Texas Tribune

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

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