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Southlake Style

STAAR Testing- Dragons Chance To Shine

Feb 14, 2012 04:20PM ● By Mike

CISD News with Dr. David Faltys, CISD Superintendent

Just about the time everyone in the state of Texas finally remembered that TAKS stands for Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, the test is changing. . .again. That’s right. A new generation of tests – the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness or STAAR – is slated to begin this spring. STAAR is a standardized testing program for students in grades 3-12.

While many are not surprised with pending changes, they are feeling anxious and uncertain about what the new tests will mean for students and districts. The STAAR test promises to be more rigorous than ever before. I am certainly for a testing program that encourages rigor and validates the learning that is happening in our classrooms. Without an assessment program, how can we be sure that students are learning what the state expects at various grade levels and subjects?

In light of our state’s limited financial resources, however, it would make sense if our assessment program tested a cross section of students in each district rather than ALL students. That’s the focus of discussion by school leaders involved in The Public Visioning Institute. This group provides a unique opportunity for visionary, progressive superintendents to learn from one another by challenging conventional thinking to improve leadership capacities and school systems. Many of us involved in The Public Visioning Institute believe there is sometimes too much of a focus on assessment, ratings and single success factors. We believe the same rigor for standardized instruction and learning could be measured by using a random sampling of students for a fraction of what is spent on testing annually. CISD, alone, is losing $8 million in state funding over the biennium. We certainly aren’t advocating doing away with assessments, but we are concerned about the growing emphasis and costs associated with testing students.

That said, CISD plans to join more than a thousand public school districts this spring implementing the new STAAR program. As outlined by the Texas Education Agency, STAAR will focus on readiness for success and ultimately for college and career. At this point, we don’t even know what the passing standards will be. Our teachers and administrators are preparing our students for a test they’ve never seen and passing standards that have yet to be set. In fact, Texas historically phases its testing standards over a period of years.

While in school, students will be tested in the core subject areas of reading, writing, mathematics, science and social studies. The STAAR tests for elementary and middle school students cover the same subjects and grades as the previous TAKS test did. At the high school level, however, students will take 12 End of Course (EOC) assessments that will now replace their previous grade-specific tests.

This year’s ninth grade class will be the first group required to take the STAAR End of Course exams. The tests will be given in English I, English II, English III, Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, World Geography, World History and U.S. History. A shift from the TAKS test, STAAR will test material that the students studied that year. TAKS always contained questions over content the students studied over multiple years.

I’m not worried about our Dragons. While change is sometimes frustrating and the uncertainty can cause anxiety among students and staff, I have every confidence that our students will do as well, if not better, than their counterparts across the state. I am, however, a parent myself and I understand the anxiety associated with new tests, requirements and expectations. My own children and family will be dealing with the unknown. Still, I have great expectations for Dragons to continue their tradition of success.

I may sound like a proud father of 7,600+ students, but I cannot help it. We’ve had major changes to the state’s testing program throughout the past two decades and each and every time our students have used the opportunity to shine. Our goal is to ensure excellence in Carroll ISD and to support rigor in our academic program. We accept the STAAR challenge and look forward to working with our students and staff to excel just as we have done in the past. We’ve been conducting parent meetings to help ease anxiety, but would be happy to answer questions as the spring testing dates approach.

For more information visit the CISD STAAR website