Texas Educators Unite Against STAAR Exams

Many say the tests could cost students a chance at college

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Educators from across the state are uniting to speak out against the controversial STAAR that they say could cost many kids a chance at college.
Four North Texas area superintendents met in Justin, Texas, at  Northwest ISD offices Wednesday to speak out against the standardized tests, what they call "high-stakes testing" in public schools. 
The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness was first introduced to Texas schools in 2012 and the testing regime features 15 core-subject exams. The standardized tests are the latest step in a nearly 20-year push to improve student scores and college preparedness.
Northwest ISD Superintendent Karen Rue explained that the state’s standardized tests have evolved from very simple “one-step to solution questions” to the STAAR, which will often require students complete a five-step process for math questions. 
Keller ISD Superintendent Randy Reid gave the example that students would need to use a graph, reason its use in the question, solving the problem, then interpret the results, etc.
“It’s almost unanimous, if not unanimous across the state, that superintendents will tell you we need to see a transition from this,” said Reid.
The superintendents say the challenge and accountability created by this is great for students and the gradual increase in difficulty has yielded results, but they say it’s gone too far with STAAR.
“A good idea went too far,” said Rue.
Birdville ISD Superintendent Darrell Brown told the group that the scores of the 15 tests taken throughout a student’s academic career are accumulated and in the end must reach one of three total levels: minimum, recommended, or distinguished.  
The minimum level was described by the superintendents though as “failing better” because attaining poor scores will often make a student’s cumulative score rank below the requirement to graduate; thus ineligible to attend a four-year university in the state. Failing one test or underscoring on one test can easily cause a student to fall within that range as well.
The North Texas superintendents say the time that goes into the tests and the importance placed on them are core problems.
Rue said the STAAR system could essentially ruin a student’s chance at college, scholarships and a strong start at their future all because of one bad test.
“It turns the purpose of education into testing, and that’s not education,” Rue said. "We all believe that there's an appropriate way to use this type of assessment and this type of measurement, but we just believe we've gone beyond that and now it's the tail wagging the dog.”
For now educators across the state urge the Legislature to find a better method. The group says there are bills in both chambers that would provide strong alternatives. They add that if an alternative isn’t found soon they believe the backlash of this “over-testing” will start to show in students across the state.
“We usually find the best way to get over the hump,” said Reid. “But we won’t be able to find a way fast enough with this one.”
The group is urging parents to get educated on the topic and know how to prepare their students for STAAR by visiting the Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment  website, or the Save Texas Schools website
They add there will also be rallies in Austin, Texas, to protest the tests to the State Legislature on Feb. 21 and Feb.23. 
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