Monday, December 12, 2011

There’s a New STAAR on the Horizon

Yes, two “As” because we’re not talking about a celestial body, nor are we talking about a celebrity. We are talking about the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness, the state’s new assessment of knowledge instrument that will replace TAKS over the next 4 years.

STAAR will be administered this spring to 9th graders for the first time, and passing it just might make or break their walk across the stage 3 years hence.

In short, if before we had 4 TAKS tests that a student needed to pass, now we have 12 STAAR tests that they must pass. Yes, high-stakes testing has just gone to a new level.

Trouble is, according to this article, the state has not yet decided what the passing standard will be. And unfortunately once that standard is decided upon one wonders whether they will stick to that standard throughout a student’s secondary education, or whether it will be adjusted year by year as TAKS standards were.

But most alarming to some is that the STAAR test is more rigorous than TAKS. I think the biggest criticism I have of state mandated tests is that the tests are not necessarily written in the language that the content was taught. Textbooks that are adopted in each district differ from one to another. So the language and the context that the content is taught differs from district to district. In addition, many students attempt to pass courses by rote memorization, but when presented with a STAAR test, all of a sudden they are expected to think at the highest order, something that only the 1st quartile are capable of doing.

But perhaps the biggest concern I have with implementing a new high-stakes testing regimen just now is also the concern of Gayle Fallon, the American Federation of Teachers president in Houston:
The biggest problem we've got is it's a significant jump in difficulty in a year to be followed by another year where we're seeing the largest class sizes we've ever seen. We're seeing resources disappear on a daily basis. I'm not saying our teachers can't do it, but it's kind of like saying run this race and we're going to tie both your hands behind your back. Now good luck.
The sad fact is, the state is requiring students to pass a new high-stakes test at a time when the state failed to deliver the resources to public schools as demanded by the state’s own constitution.

1 comment:

Greg said...

You and I agree that this new test is a clusterf*ck. Standards have not been set and procedures have not been clarified. And as you and I both know, we teachers have never been permitted to see a released version of the test -- not even what was used for field testing. We've got the TEKS and a few released sample questions to use to try to figure out how to prepare our kids for the test.

A friend put it well -- "we are not the blind leading the blind, merely the half-blind from cataracts leading the blind."