Last week was a big week for Texas educators. Most public school were busy administering the STAAR. STAAR exams, or the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, are administered by all public school late in the spring. You can hear pins drop on normally boisterous school hallways as student are sequestered for four hours to take these exams. The STAAR credibility has taken a hit a bit this year, but it still remains an important result for public schools. The big question is, do these assessments benefit our students? Below are some observations about how STAAR impacts students:
Test Day an Exercise in Sitting Still and Quiet – While students are sequestered for four hours, most students spend one to two hours to complete the test. After completing, double, and triple checking tests, students must now fill two to three hours of dead time. They do this by reading, sleeping, or making frequent trips to the bathroom (drawing is not allowed in some classes).
Test Not Challenging for Most Students – Most students in our area of Houston pass the STAAR with little to no effort (keep in mind we are near well regarded schools serving an upper-middle class students). The content of the exam is so basic it is not worth the attention of most students. It seems Students find the exam pointless.
Excessive Time Spent Preparing – Students spend countless hours all year preparing for this exam that most will not find challenging. In many grades, curriculum instruction is subsumed by STAAR practice, benchmarks, and memorizing test strategies. All in all, a significant amount of classroom time is given up to prepare students for this one test.
Success Compared to What? – The STAAR is a “criterion referenced” test, which tells you how a student performed relative to a set of criteria defined by the state of Texas. It does not tell you how well your student is doing relative to other students. To understand how your student does relative to peers, your child should take norm referenced tests (fortunately, most west Houston schools do also administer norm referenced tests like the Iowa or Stanford Achievement Tests).
Conceptually, the STAAR is meant to help the overall education of children in the state of Texas. In our part of town, there appears to be little impact to taking this exam. There is a growing movement by public school parents to opt out from the exam; it’s hard to fault their reasoning.
The Tenney School is a private school, providing one-on-one customized instruction for students. As a private school, we do not administer annual STAAR exams. Our students are assessed each year on norm referenced test tools. If you would like more information about this topic, please contact us today!