Is the STAAR test too hard? Lawmakers are starting to think so

Students, parents explain why they no longer want the STAAR test

By Sarah Acosta - Reporter, Jennifer Galvan - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - Is the STAAR test too hard? 

It’s a question that state lawmakers have been grappling with as a handful of pieces of legislation have been filed to improve the test or get rid of it.

Most recently, the Texas House approved the funds for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) to be audited to see if it’s testing at a level that's too high. 

Matthew Gonzalez and Edward Palo Alto, eighth graders at Page Middle School, said they feel stressed out when it comes to taking the STAAR test. 

“I get very anxious,” Matthew said. 

“My stomach hurts. I get agitated. It just hurts. I get frustrated," Edward said.

They both think the test is too hard.

“I barely pass it by two or three questions,” Edward said. 

He said it makes it him sad when his classmates don’t pass. 

“There are actually some kids that flunked,” Edward said. “I feel bad for them, because they do try so hard, and yet they flunk.”

The boys are not alone. Lawmakers are now questioning if the test needs to be stopped or audited to determine if it is testing at too high a level for students in grades three through eight. 

The San Antonio Alliance of Teachers believes the STAAR needs to be done away with. Shelly Potter, with the group, said studies have been done several times showing the test’s reading levels are too high. 

“I don’t think we need to audit what we already know, that the reading test is flawed," Potter said.

Potter said there is too much weight put on the test. The test decides if a student passes into the next grade, how teachers are evaluated and if a school will stay open.

“Those kind of weighty decisions shouldn’t rest on one test,” Potter said. 

Potter said the STAAR affects neighborhoods and communities because it dictates if a school stays open. An example of that is Rodriguez Elementary closing at the end of this year because of low test scores. 

Sarah Sorensen’s third grade daughter is getting ready to take the STAAR in a few weeks and is already stressed.

“She’s just exhausted,” Sorensen said. 

She hopes that something changes with the STAAR test in the near future. 

“I think it’s about time that our lawmakers are actually realizing what accountability systems do to our kids and our schools," she said.

The Texas Education Agency continues to stand by the test.

In a statement, the TEA said it is confident that the assessment of the STAAR is on grade level and that the greater problem is how Texas students' reading levels have declined. 

Read the rest of the statement below:

“The recent concerns that have been raised about the grade-level appropriateness of STAAR passages underscores a greater problem – that for more than a decade, Texas students' reading performance has remained flat or has declined. We know this not only from STAAR scores, but from TAKS scores before that, from NAEP scores nationally, and from how well those students do later in life. We remain committed to working with all Texas educators to strengthen our reading instruction so that every child in every school learns to read at grade level. 

“TEA is confident that the assessments are on grade level. Our test development process is rooted in Texas standards, reviewed by Texas teachers, and field tested by Texas students to ensure that every test is fair, valid, reliable, and grade-level appropriate. TEA has and will continue to rely on the judgment of Texas teachers to determine what is an appropriate grade-level expectation for Texas students. TEA will also continue to listen to feedback from educators to make improvements to the test development process as needed. Similarly, TEA will continue to use Lexile and computer-based readability algorithms like it to provide resources for parents to help them find a good book for their child, and in turn, to help foster a love of reading.” 

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