FAQ-Checkin' Some Things About New STAAR Test, Which Doesn't Even Count This Year

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As timing would have it, our 8-year-old entered third grade just as the state's rolling out the new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness test, which, of course, replaces the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test, which also turned 8 this year. That means his mom and I have questions, many questions, about the STAAR test -- questions the Texas Education Agency is only now prepared to answer following a state Legislative session that at one point considered suspending STAAR implementation. Just a few days ago, matter of fact, the TEA posted this handy STAAR FAQ.

DeEtta Culbertson, TEA spokesperson, directed me to it this afternoon -- along with the whole STAAR site, which among other things, gives parents, teachers and students a very vague idea of what to expect when testing begins. (There are no sample questions yet, only "blueprints" concerning the kinds and number of questions that will be asked for each grade.) Reason I initially called Culbertson was: At the end of the month, the Dallas Independent School District board will vote to suspend using STAAR test scores when promoting fifth- and eighth-graders at the end of this school year. In case you and your fifth-grader didn't know. Didn't think they needed to vote on that.

"Fifth- and eight-graders had to pass TAKS to get promoted, and that will remain the case with STAAR," she says. "But because we won't have passing standards set [until October], that is being suspended this year. Now, of course, you still have to meet your other course work, and districts can add other requirements for promotion, but that one is suspended for this year."

Oh, and that "benchmark" test given throughout the DISD last week? "The test was not from us," Culbertson says. (What? I was curious.) "So the district must have developed a benchmark assessment."
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18 comments
LaceyB
LaceyB

I've been hearing about the STAAR upgrade for the last 2 years. Expect a test that wants higher results in math and reading. I actually thought it was supposed to get played last year, but, nothing is ever fast or efficient at DISD.I certainly hope you've filled out little man's app for one of the magnet schools next year (like Travis). It'd be a damn shame to let his little mind rot anywhere else.

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

My question for STAAR is...what is "academic readiness?"  Shouldn't we be testing for academic mastery?  Sounds like dumbing down to me, and TAKS was already dumbed down enough.

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

Short answer is yes. And because the STARR is more difficult that the TAKS (which was consistently watered down or tainted by the "Texas Projection Measure" by which a student who failed the test was given a passing grade if it was projected that they may pass the test at some point in the future) the numbers of schools rated academically unacceptable will grow in number and those acceptable schools will fall in rank. Perhaps then parents will take notice although I doubt it.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

PLEASE REREAD THE POST BY YEAH RIGHT...

It describes a terrible and too-common practice in DISD.  It is truly warehousing of kids.

Let's say 7th graders have to take yet another district test.So the school locks down all 6th and 8th graders in different rooms until 7th graders finish.Often, the 6th and 8th graders (just an example) are divided up alphabetically and placed with teachers they don't even have.

It devolves into 3 hours of boredom and misbehavior.

Not all schools do this, but too many do. 

At my school and many others, testing kids who finish their tests early ARE NOT ALLOWED TO DO ANYTHING BUT SIT FOR THE REMAINING HOURS.  We don't want to "incentivize" early finishing.

Nothing, not even children, stands between off-campus adults, their jobs, and their busywork.

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

At my school and many others, testing kids who finish their tests early ARE NOT ALLOWED TO DO ANYTHING BUT SIT FOR THE REMAINING HOURS.  We don't want to "incentivize" early finishing.-----------------------------------------------------------------

I still remember the first time I was told the kids just had to sit there for the rest of the day.  I thought the AP was kidding.  To just force kids to sit there for hours, doing nothing?  That was when I knew public education had gone off the rails, and that there was no future for me in it.

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

ARE YOU FREAKIN' SERIOUS? I THOUGHT THAT SUPERB WASTE OF FOUR, COUNT THEM, FOUR DAYS OF TESTING FRESHMEN WAS THE TEA'S IDEA, AND IT WAS NOT?  I AM BEGGING YOU, FOR YOUR NEXT STORY, GO IN DEPTH ON THIS WASTE OF TIME AND TAX DOLLARS. THE STATE THINKS WE HAVE OUR KIDS EVERY DAY, RIGHT? THE DISD, ON THEIR OWN, DECIDED TO SPEND FOUR DAYS TESTING BRAND NEW FRESHMEN. FOUR. DID I MENTION IT WAS FOUR?Or was it three? Anyway.....

They did not mean a thing, and the kids knew it, so how valid would anything from them be? The state assumes days for finals, or the PSAT, but DISD is out of control when it comes to testing. Any semblance of classroom management, of class cohesion, was shot by this exercise in futility.... But you know what? If I am the ONLY teacher who goes to 3700 and says something to the board, then teachers get what they deserve. And frankly, I am worn out. It is time for about 14-30 teachers and a group of parents to raise holy hell each time this kind of stuff comes up . They hate having to listen to unbridled and uncensored teachers telling lit like it is in front of the media.

The only other way to stop this nonsense is to show how it is a waste of tax dollars. So, exactly how much time and $$$ did they spend on hiring someone to write the tests, print the tests, etc...?

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

STAAR, EOCs, Readistep, ITBS, and TELPAS are not district tests.

All the rest--the Readiness, the Interims, the Writing Benchmarks, the ACPs--are written by the district.  Some lucky kids will get to take 4 Readiness Inventories the same week they take all their ACPs.  Bet those St. Mark's boys are super jealous!

There are so many tests  I'm sure I'm leaving some out.

This district has lost its mind.Meanwhile, we've combined 7th and 8th grade football to save money, which means lots of 7th graders won't get a chance to play all year bc the bigger and stronger 8th graders will get the playing time. 

But we've got plenty of money for the testing.  No matter how much the state cuts, the district bureaucrats will make sure it never affects them. 

ParleyPPratt
ParleyPPratt

MA lot of suburbs combine football. Wawawa.

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

We had our first meeting of the CBRC (Citizens Budget Review Commission) last evening. The district will have to cut another $25M (minimum) from next year's budget. Although we can still cut into the administration, and my own goal of cutting useless programs, I believe the district will have to close some schools.  The year after could be just as bleak. To top it off, the number of instructional days has dropped to 175 and the number of testing days has increased from 27 to 40 something...it's stupid beyond belief.  I used this benchmark test example as one of the first programs we need to evaluate for efficacy and effectiveness.

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

Evaluate my sweet Aunt Martha. Cut the suckers. No need to evaluate. Here is the means testing: Does Highland Park do it? Does Bishop Lynch? Does Plano West? If the answer is a big fat NO, then you have to ask why we do then?

mklanne
mklanne

Sure, don't require passing any STAARS exams to graduate from middle school. But you know the problem that's going to rear its ugly head the year after...those socially promoted students, some of whom are still on an elementary reading level, will be REQUIRED to pass their high school level STAARS exams. What then? The problem with public schools in Texas is the fault of unqualified state board members and school district administrators. Even the best teacher can't always perform miracles...we have to work with what we have been given.

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

Welcome to my hell. I teach 10th grade, the level where thety count for feds, but not for graduation. Never been held back before, they are shocked to find they read so badly, can't do math well, etc...

What keeps me going is when they figure out they have been messed with by the system, yet they really do want to try to learn.... I can't quit on them.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

And, Robert, I am so sorry your child is in one of the "targeted" grade levels.  Luckily for him, he probably has a busy and rich life outside of school.

My heart breaks for the 3rd graders who don't have a busy and enriched life outside of school.  They sit through district tests and then go home to who knows what.  So much lost opportunity.  So many bright and bored children.

The bad news is that, starting next year, ALL grades levels will be part of the testing frenzy.  And it will be intense; the STAAR test counts next year.

This is not what public education used to be or should be, but I don't know what to do about it.

Max from the Sandspit
Max from the Sandspit

Robert- I know y'all don't care for what I post but might I suggest that the person that posted this needs to be added to the DO stable. Whomever they are they get it, most of your useful idiots don't. Give them space and a byline in the rag and protect their identity, arrange for a stipend evem if it's a bar tab. They need to be in print. 

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

On page 137 of the Department of Evaluation and Accountability report:  http://www.dfpe.org/pdf/09-10-..., Aaron Ware, PhD. provides a summary of the 2009-10 DISD Benchmark Assessment program:

"The major purposes of the Benchmark Assessment Program were (a) to monitor and improve student learning through assessment designed to aid instruction throughout the school year, (b) to monitor the consistent and complete teaching of Dallas ISD's curricula across all schools, and (c) to assist schools, area offices, and central office staff in adjusting the utilization of instructional resources. The crux of this project was the development, administration, scoring, and reporting of results of a comprehensive testing system designed to assess the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) across Grades K-12."

As for moving the needle on student achievement?  Well, that wasn't the purpose.  And the findings, in the form of survey results, were almost all about the benchmark exam itself and not the conclusions to be drawn from the benchmark results. 

Some interesting factoids:"Test reliability tells us how dependable the measure is...English II Pre-AP and Pre-Calculus, had an unacceptable reliability."

Some problems with the report:"A total of 98 test coordinators responded to the online survey."  Out of how many?  It doesn't say.

A telling statistic: "Most (69%) respondents [see above] felt that the benchmark data were useful for making instructional improvement. The extent to which these data were used is an important part of the implementation of the benchmark program."

What did we learn from this huge testing program?  Not much except 1/3 of the respondents who felt it was important enough to take the survey didn't see the usefulness of the benchmarks and I have no idea if the data gathered was actually used to "improve student learning  through assessment designed to aid instruction throughout the school year" Perhaps I missed that report.

Any teachers have an opinion?

More information here:http://www.budgetreview.org/po...

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Certain grades in DISD this year are spending a ridiculous amount of time testing.

Cleverly, the district entitled the DISTRICT-WRITTEN assessments Ready to STAAR (or something like that).

Even one of our administrators thought the test was from the state.  We teachers kept trying to tell her it wasn't, but she had to call an off-campus person to confirm what 8 teachers were telling her.  Sigh.

The district tests exist to create jobs for adults either related to someone OR friends with someone.

The district tests are not helpful.  We need time to teach the TEKS given from Austin.

No one has seen the STAAR, so no one knows what will be on it.  That's why it doesn't count.

But DISD, predicatably, is ramping UP its test-writing department trying to second-guess a test no one has seen.  DISD should chill out, wait to see what the real test looks like, and suspend other district-written "practice" tests until then.

Again:  we need time to TEACH.  KIds really do want to learn; they are hard-wired to learn.

DISD kids lost a minimum of 2 days last week to testing; at the more humane schools they lost 4 days.  Private school kids, meanwhile, were learning.

And we wonder why there is an achievement gap between affluent kids and poor kids.

Yeah Right...
Yeah Right...

     2 days, but in some schools the entire school was required to stay in place, no passing of classes, so that the building was quiet for the testing grade. Some say the tests were very much like the benchmarks used to prep for TAKS. Each test is 3 hours, unless everyone finishes sooner (if allowed).     Next year 4th and 7th will be added to the testing schedule 5th and 8th are experiencing, the year after that 6th and anyone else I forgot will be added to the testing regime.     The old benchmark was supposeddddddd to be diagnostic, to help teachers spot areas to work on. Except it took weeks to get the scores back (teachers shouldn't check their own students' diagnostics) and the reports were in formats more helpful to administration.     Prep and diagnostic testing is good in its place, but I'm not really impressed with how the district is deciding to implement it in their "lockstep" method.

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