Accountability in Texas, Part 2: A STAAR is born

Time to pick up our history lesson. We left off with a critique of the so-called “Texas miracle” that occurred during the era of the TAAS test.

The next big transition to come to Texas was a move to the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS), which were implemented in 2003. These tests were intended to map closely to standards set by the new Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) – the Texas curriculum standards* – and to be more rigorous than TAAS.

When the first round of results came out, Texas was shocked by results that further debunked the “Texas miracle”. The results revealed a deep achievement gap for minority students and pointed at potentially flawed previous scores/standards.The Lone Star Report called it a “reality check”, reporting that:

“The revelations of TEA’s presentation [to a House Committee] were nothing short of a confessional. Comparison of Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) test results showed passing rates for reading of around 90 percent, and for mathematics around 80 percent for grades 3 to 8, compared to TAKS pass rates at panel-recommended scoring averaging around 70 percent for reading and declining to nearly 50 percent for mathematics.”

Conversations about an updated assessment began just a few short years later, and in 2009, STAAR was born – the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness.

Again, according to TEA, the goal was to increase rigor. STAAR also introduced several new concepts, most notably, the idea of end-of-course (EOC) exams. These exams are designed to measure only the content taught at a particular grade level (or in high school, in a particular subject). In addition, with STAAR, high school students must pass 12 exit exams based on required subjects in order to graduate.

With STAAR barely in the implementation stages, the backlash began. 

A high level-source of dissatisfaction heightened the issue: in early 2012, TEA Commissioner Robert Scott made a speech to the Texas Association of School Administrators that surprised many legislators and educators alike. Among Scott’s more quotable moments, he called the current testing regimen aperversion of its original intent”.

Thus began the conversation that’s happening now, wherein former accountability advocates are flip-flopping and calling for more flexibility and fewer exams. Republican Dan Patrick stated, “We can blame the Legislature…If we have fouled this up, we need to get this right.”

And that, friends, appears to be what they’re trying to do with House Bill 5.


*Side note: Texas curricula is a controversy in and of itself – check out for some stunning (and terrifying) information on how standards are set in the Lone Star State.


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