By Jordan Crum – Opinion
If you ask any student or teacher in a Texas public school if they look forward to the STAAR test (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness), you would get a really loud “NO!” But this is not just because students dislike the test, it’s because the test is pushed and pushed so much from the state level that you get sick of it before you take it. STAAR has no longer become a helpful end-of-course test that shows progress but rather an inconvenience that instead could be given as a diagnostic at the beginning of the year. Here’s what we know:
- Statistics show that student scores have gone down in the past as the tests purposely become harder. In 2012, 80% of kids passed the grade eight reading exam. In April of 2018, only 46% met the standard in reading. This trend has been noticed in elementary, middle, and high schools and continues today.
- One part of eighth grade is in late April and the final part of eighth grade testing comes the second week of May, just before what should be the final week of school. So on top of finals, eighth grade students must also take science and social studies STAAR. This means that students must choose to completely focus on the STAAR or their teacher’s exams.
- In a recent article by author Mimi Swartz in Texas Monthly, she proves through several studies that STAAR has been asking students questions in reading levels two to four times higher than their own. Students don’t understand the questions, and therefore, the top student suddenly is a failure in the eyes of the state.
- Each year, students are required to know approximately 120 or more TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) per subject. On top of that, new and more information is required to be taught. This is a huge stumbling block as they try to cram all the new things into their head while not forgetting the old or important information.
- And then there’s the question of money. The STAAR cost a whopping $90 million per year. What are they spending this on? An NBC 5 investigation looked at STAAR testing budget documents and receipts and revealed millions of testing dollars are spent on meetings, travel and consultants who charge the state as much as $5,300 for three days of work.
- According to KXAN, an Austin news station, Republican Senator Paul Bettencourt wants the days of paying for schools purely on attendance to be in the past. He and others want to schools to get paid based on graduation rates, course completion, or test scores. “We’re a 21st century environment now so we need to be looking at 21st century tools,” Bettencourt said. “When you do that it will quite frankly be intimidating to a lot of people.” Currently, schools who do bad on the STAAR are put on ‘the list’ and may even be shut down if they don’t do well enough.
- And finally, who wants to take a whole bunch of long, hard and boring tests if colleges don’t look at them for college entry? Colleges mainly care about your ACT score and GPA, so why do we spend so many class days testing and practice testing when it won’t matter for college?
The STAAR was invented to ‘be more rigorous than the TAKS tests and are designed to measure a student’s college and career readiness, starting in elementary school.’ That’s not working anymore. I’m not sure if it worked the first time around.
The main thing that the state overlooked is really simple: “School districts as a whole believe that accountability helps districts grow, but accountability can’t be measured by one test one day,” White Oak Middle School Principal Becky Balboa said.
This is very true. If the state wants to see progress, they need to do more than just one ridiculous test to see how the students are doing. And thankfully, we attend school in a district who doesn’t promote taking tests, but one who
What we really need to do is local testing, with a test made by the surrounding districts working together. Many people in the education system agree that this would be the best solution. Teachers would continue teaching the TEKS so students can be better prepared. Students would have less stress from local testing knowing the results won’t impact funding or accountability ratings.
Plus, not administering STAAR will save the state a total of $90 million or more and that money can be used for Texas schools to add technology or implement new programs. After all, there is more to life than testing.