April is here, so it’s time for Texas public school student to endure the annual pain of STAAR exams. As students, parents, and educators reflect on the year preparing for the STAAR, it’s hard to defend the waste the process has become. To be sure, some form of annual testing is important; not only is it a sound education practice, but it is mandated by law (No Child Left Behind). While it’s important to acknowledge some progress, on the whole STAAR represents a waste of resources without a commensurate return on investment. Below are four reasons the STARR process is a waste:
STAAR Is a Criterion Referenced Test – A criterion referenced test tells you where you stand relative to a set of criteria. In the case of the STAAR, the criteria are established by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). It would be far better for Texas students, parents, and educators to measure annual progress against a National Norm Referenced Test (NRT). College entrance exams are all NRT, annual testing should be as well. Other states use NRT for annual testing, Texas should too.
STAAR Benefits Very Few Students –Most students will find it easy to “Meet Standard” on the STAAR. They would have passed regardless of time spent preparing for the exam (more to follow on this). Similarly, there are some student who will never be able to pass the STAAR (especially students with Learning Differences and English Language Learners). For the above types of students, the STAAR is of no benefit. To be fair, the students who benefit from the push to pass the STAAR are the students just above or below the standard. Students just above or below standard are more likely to get the assistance they need to develop the skills and knowledge expected of students at their age. This is a small percentage of students.
STAAR Benefits Very Few Schools – Similar to lack of benefit to students, STAAR is benefitting very few schools. Most schools are populated with smart students from caring families educated by competent teachers. These schools will have no issue “Meeting Standards.” In 2017, just ten schools in the Houston Independent School District (HISD) were identified as “Improvement Required” by the TEA. This represents just 3.5% of schools in the district. This is a worst case scenario as most districts do not face near the challenges of HISD. If we assume double that number of schools were pushed by STAAR to get more students to meet standards, it leaves about 90% of schools that need not worry, or benefit from the STAAR exam.
Inordinate Amount of Time Spent on STAAR – Given the reasons highlighted above, the waste of time spent on STAAR is especially egregious. STAAR has become the single focus of every district, school, and teacher in the state. While it is important for our annual testing to be taken seriously, the current emphasis on STAAR is way out of balance. Hardly a week goes by where students are not being asked to sit for a benchmark, STARR strategy lesson, or practice STAAR. The stakes are so high, teachers have no choice but to Drill & Kill to prep for the STAAR. Given that very few students and schools benefit from STAAR, our schools need to quit wasting so much time for this one exam.
We need to do something to fix the mess of the STAAR exam process in Texas. Though STAAR is the result of the best intentions, it has become a waste and a drain on the potential academic growth of most of our students. In the meantime, for families looking to get away from the STAAR pain, private school may be an option to consider. Please contact us if you would like to learn more about what a private school can do for your child.