David Haydon" />
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Thursday, September 28, 2023


Different test, same low standards

The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness will replace the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test this year, to reactions of praise and contempt.

Since 2003, TAKS has been a thorn in many Texas public schoolteachers’ sides. They protested the stiff, inflexible rubric and the ambiguous requirements to pass (proficiency in reading, writing, math). The lack of critical thinking skills required to pass upset teachers the most.

Uninformed parents probably approve of STAAR just from the sound of it (think Lone Star State) compared to TAKS. There’s a comical(but unlikely) chance that unknowing parents fear TAKS prepares students for throwing tax dollars to Washington.

Joking aside, the criticisms against TAKS have merit. Texas has been addicted to standardized testing for years, with more emphasis on quantity than quality.

To review a history of testing in Texas, 1979 began the Texas Assessment of Basic Skills, changing in 1984 to Texas Educational Assessment of Minimum Skills, then in 1990 the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills. In 1999, TAKS took over — and now in 2011 we will have STAARS. Few of the forgone tests had a long shelf life thanks to poor results, and all of them faced criticism.

STAAR is feared to be no different, just grade-A sleight of hand material; a clever ploy to use a nice sounding acronym as a fancy candy wrapper on the same old garbage.

To its credit, STAAR intends to fix past failures. The STAAR assessments range from Algebra I and II, geometry, physics, biology, chemistry, history and more.

There are 12 separate assessments that high school students will have to pass, and each grade will receive specific versions. The difficulty of STAAR tests will also be increased from previous TAKS levels.

As for the multiple choice standardization, the Texas Education Agency explains that there will be more open-ended questions on the science and math assessments so that students can answer independently, encouraging critical thinking and independent thought. We do not know how many questions will be open-ended yet, or how students will be taught to answer them.

The main fear is, if the STAAR remains like its predecessors in form and function, then why bother? Multiple-choice standardized testing is never going to produce critical thinkers, even if that is the goal, which at this point is doubtful.

There is no way to know if STAAR will do what it intends to do until after students have taken the assessments and the data has been collected. If history is any indicator, however, just having a catchy name won’t solve anything.

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