VIDEO: TEA Talks Rollout of New STAAR

A student sits for a standardized test. | Image by Chinnapong, Shutterstock

In response to Texas lawmakers calling for changes to the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test back in 2019, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) rolled out a new format this spring.

STAAR tests are administered to Texas students from third grade and on, typically to assess academic readiness.

The results of STAAR testing help determine student achievement outcomes and thus also assess the quality of education students receive.

STAAR testing fosters greater transparency and accountability for school districts like the Dallas Independent School District, where only 41% of students scored at grade level last year.

In May 2019, House Bill 3906 was passed, which made several changes to the standardized exam with the goal of aligning it better with the realities and practices of the classroom.

The TEA was also ordered to create an advisory body to develop valid and reliable tools to monitor and assess STAAR tests.

The bill also lowered the stakes for the STAAR by eliminating the need for students to pass it to move on to the next grade.

A presentation prepared in February by the TEA outlining the changes to the STAAR test highlighted how the old format overused multiple-choice questions, possessed a limited number of short reading passages, and did not include enough evidence-based writing prompts.

The redesigned test now puts a 75% cap on multiple-choice questions in favor of open-ended questions that teachers often employ in the classroom.

It also requires students to write text-based responses using cross-curricular passages that assess not just their reading and writing skills but also their breadth of knowledge in all subjects.

The TEA also released a video on YouTube explaining the STAAR redesign.

A spokesperson from the TEA said that the redesign received mostly positive feedback from educators after being used to test students for the very first time this April. They also noted that the transition went smoothly due to an extensive outreach campaign that ensured school systems were ready, especially since the STAAR test was to be conducted entirely online.

Last year, almost 80% of STAAR tests were administered online.

The move to conduct the test completely online was designed to provide faster test results while accommodating the new question formats.

Online testing also made it possible to provide students with the same accommodations they receive in the classroom, such as simplified language support as well as text-to-speech and speech-to-text options. Content language support is also provided.

According to the TEA spokesperson, schools were directed ahead of time to upgrade their technological infrastructure to allow for online testing using state and federal funding opportunities, such as a $4 million grant administered by the TEA.

Despite the STAAR test’s diminished importance to completing a grade level, the assessment will continue to measure students’ performance across school districts and help determine how to support students in the future.

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