I believe that I can speak for most people when I say that the STAAR needs to go. We are over testing our kids and they are not retaining information. What our teachers and students need is an old fashion assessment test to check for growth in a student, have they learned something during the year. Back when I was in school I remember taking the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. It gave my teachers a snapshot of my retention of the material.
Now, we give our kids a plethora of test and in doing so, we exhaust any passion for learning out of them. While I was still teaching I would hear it every year that this group of kids just do not care about school and want you to just give them a grade. Now, I think there are several reasons for that, we cannot just blame the STAAR. But the system puts so much emphasis on the STAAR that students quickly learn that the test and its results are more important than anything else. So, if it’s not tested…it doesn’t matter.
This is one of our legislative priorities, ending the STAAR. In a previous blog, I wrote about the requirements of the Federal government on assessing students. It is imperative that we follow those guidelines, but is the STAAR the best assessment to give?
So far in the 86th Legislature only one bill has been introduced to offer and alternative to the STAAR, HB 4386 by Rep. Tom Oliverson from Houston. It would allow alternative assessments. Wow, how awesome that a lawmaker is stepping out and trying to make a change to help our students. There also have been several bills that do reduce the amount of testing. Together, this would be a great change for education.
Here is a recap of those bills.
SB 96– This bill has been introduced by Senator Jose Menendez from San Antonio. He has tried to get this bill passed for the past 2 sessions. Hopefully, this is the year to see it become a law. What the bill is asking, is to reduce the number of assessments down to what is only required by Federal law. What a HUGE reduction. Currently testing occurs in Grades 3-8 with multiple assessments doing those year. A total number of assessments for those grades- 17. In high school, the number is 5.
This does not take into account all of the benchmarks that are given as well. Senator Menendez has a simple bill that will help our students not have to test so much. I think it would be a great stop gap measure to ease the stress of testing.
HB 736-Introduced by Rep. Brooks Landgraf from Odessa, this is one of the most exciting bills to come out. The bill will eliminate the STAAR from being used as a criterion for student promotion. It would allow students to graduate even if they have failed the STAAR but passed all of their classes. It would still require accelerated instruction and tutoring.
HB 1991-Introduced by Rep. Ben Leman from Brenham. This bill has some merit. Replace the STAAR in high school with the SAT or ACT (districts decide) and then would only need to take the STAAR for Science and Social Studies. It would be a good way to support College Readiness and reduce the number of assessments that students are taking. Also, the students would be taking the SAT/ACT as juniors when students are more mature and will perform better. It is not fix but it is heading us in the right direction to end the STAAR. It definitely has merits.
HB 4613 by Rep. Matt Shaheen, Plano- This bill would waive the academic assessments for Special Education students.
This is just a few of the bills that have been introduced. We would love to hear your feedback on these bills. Keeping in mind that we are required to assess for federal money, what would you like to see Texas do instead of the STAAR make sure to comment and share this blog.