Dallas, TX

Key Reasons Dallas Students Take the STAAR Test

Tom Handy

Student studying for STAAR examImage by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Students in Dallas take the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exam. Most but not all students will take the STAAR exam this year.

The STAAR exam is a requirement for students to pass on to the next grade.

These are the grades and subjects students are tested on for the STAAR exam.

  • reading and mathematics, grades 3–8
  • writing at grades 4 and 7
  • science at grades 5 and 8
  • social studies at grade 8
  • High school end-of-course (EOC) assessments for English I, English II, English III Algebra I, Algebra II, Biology, and U.S. history. 

Before the STAAR test was created in 2012, the test was called the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) created, in 2002

What happens when a student fails the STAAR test

A Dallas student who fails the Reading or Math STAAR test is given two more opportunities to take a retest. If a student fails a third time, the school district has to give students an alternative test. When a student fails for the third time, he or she may not move on to the next grade.

The STAAR test is required for students to move on to the next grade.

STAAR Performance Standards

Level III: Advanced Academic Performance — Students exhibit a high level of preparation for the next grade or course.

Level II: Satisfactory Academic Performance — Students indicate that they are sufficiently prepared for the next grade or course.

Level I: Unsatisfactory — Students are unprepared for the next grade or course and are unlikely to pass it without intervention.

For writing, there are eight possible scores:

  • 0 = Non-scorable
  • 2 = Very Limited
  • 3 = Between Very Limited and Basic
  • 4 = Basic
  • 5 = Between Basic and Satisfactory
  • 6 = Satisfactory
  • 7 = Between Satisfactory and Accomplished
  • 8 = Accomplished

Some students get a bye on the STAAR

This year is interesting as some students get a by on the STAAR test. With the effects of the Coronavirus, some students are at home learning virtually. These students were given a bye on the STAAR exam.

Rena Honea, president of Dallas’ Alliance-AFT teachers’ union gave her comments.

“It’s not consistent across the board for everyone,” she said. “You’re going to let some opt out and some not? How are you going to get good data from that?”

Could a politician eliminate the STAAR exam?

House Bill 764 was filed by Republican Fort Worth state Rep. Matt Krause to eliminate STAAR exams that are not federally required in middle and elementary schools. This would also allow districts to replace end-of-course exams for high school kids with post-secondary education exams, such as the SAT. 

Matt Krause tweet from the Dallas Observer

In Dallas, the pandemic has already resulted in severe learning loss districtwide. By November, nearly a third of students lost learning in reading, and half lost learning in math. 

Money could be spent somewhere else

In 2021, Texas spent $74.6 million on one testing company, according to The Texas Tribune. Texas is also paying two other companies $6.8 million and $23.9 million, plus an additional $15.3 million for the development of material for students with severe disabilities and those learning English as a second language.

Honea said they would better spend resources for the STAAR testing going toward students. In the Dallas Independent School District, where around 85% of students are economically disadvantaged, according to the district’s website.

That money should be going to our schools and to the students and to the facilities — the teachers, the employees that work there,” Honea said. “It should be used in a much more productive way, and it’s not.”

About 97% of Texas teachers, parents and students opposed the state’s decision to conduct STAAR testing this year, according to a statewide social media survey conducted by state Sen. José Menéndez, a Democrat from San Antonio.

It’s a one-day snapshot instead of a whole year, several snapshots of a whole year of how a student is performing,” said interim chair for Texas Woman’s University’s department of teacher education Laura Trujillo-Jenks. 

This year students started the school year virtually. Because of this, some students did not get the full attention needed from their teachers due to the virtual environment.

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