The implementation of the State of Texas Assesments of Academic Readiness test will bring many changes to the standardized testing landscape.
For current freshman and future high school students, new STAAR end-of course tests will include course-specific testing in Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, English I, English I, English III, World Geography, World History and U.S. History. For students who have accelerated in their studies, having course-specific tests are an advantage said Dr. Sharon Meng Fort Worth Independent School District Assistant Superintendent of Advanced, Accelerated and Innovative learning.
The 12 STAAR EOC tests will replace the general subject-area Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills tests for current freshman and future high school students. Current sophomore, junior and seniors will continue to take TAKS tests and fall under TAKS graduation requirements, according to the Texas Education Agency website.
Meng said the previous TAKS tests were given by grade level, which made it a more generic test. For advanced students, it could mean they were tested on a course they studied a few years ago. Having tests more tied to courses will prevent this from happening she said.
The state requires the performance on the tests will count for 15 percent of the student’s final grade, while class work determines the remaining 85 percent, according to a FWISD press release.
However, in a recent release from the Texas Education Agency, Education Commissioner Robert Scott announced he would defer the implementation of the “15 percent requirement” for the 2011-2012 school year. The decision to defer the requirement would be left up to the districts.
Meng said the district had not made a decision yet on whether or not to accept the deferment. She said the issue would be brought up at the district board meeting Tuesday.
In addition to being course-specific, questions on STAAR tests will focus more on critical thinking to raise the level of difficulty. Other differences between STAAR and TAKS include an increased number of total test questions for most grades and subjects, and a new four hour time limit, opposed to the unlimited time allowed with TAKS tests, according to the TEA website.
“It’s not enough to know what the name of some act was,” Meng said. "You have to know the implications of that act and then you have to apply the implications to a set of circumstances. So it’s much higher thinking.”
Some students have heard about the possibility of a more challenging test, Paschal ninth-grader, Madalene Culver, said. However, she is staying optimistic.
“It makes kids focus more in class because at the end of the year they have to know that information,” Culver said.
FWISD teachers have seen very few released items from the STAAR tests and are not sure what to expect Meng said.
“There’s a lot of angst right now on the educators because we haven’t seen the test,” Meng said. “It’s very, very hard and a little bit unfair, I think, to ask people to prepare a group of children…for an exam that we haven’t seen.”
While this may be a period of adjustment for faculty, students and parents, Meng said she is confident that they will rise up and master it all.
“All we can do is teach the curriculum and hope that we are doing it in a way that enables children to do well on the exam,” Meng said.
After about 20 years of teaching, Allyson Eaton, Paschal AP English Language and Composition teacher, said she has learned that all tests, old and new, are just trying to prove that the students know the subject matter and prepare them for the real world.
“I don’t think it’s a scary thing,” Eaton said. “I just think it’s something that’s changed. But that’s the world of education. It’s always changing.”