With STAAR testing season in full swing, teachers are prepping, kids are stressing, and parents are…questioning? The lack of clarity around the STAAR test and the Texas state standards can be disheartening and stressful for a passionate parent trying to ensure their child succeeds. If you can relate, don’t worry – you don’t have to be a STAAR test expert to be a great mom or dad. We are the experts and we’re excited to help! After a few years of running our DFW-wide STAAR preparatory program, we’ve learned some really valuable things to share with you…

1. Standards have risen

  • Since the adoption of the Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills (TEKS) standards in 2002, the test used to judge student’s performance has changed multiple times which has resulted in confusion and inconsistent expectations for students and teachers.
  • Texas is one of 7 states in the United States that have chosen not to fully adopt the Common Core Curriculum. Students who are taught using Common Core have the advantage of a standardized curriculum across state lines, and being compared to their peers nationwide. Texas kids don’t have this benefit.
  • Since the implementation of the STAAR test (2014-2015), standards have risen to increase difficulty and rigor. In math, the number of fill-in-the-grid answers increased, and in reading, students are expected to analyze texts on a deeper level than ever before.
  • Students are now being tested on their readiness for the next grade level, rather than their mastery of the current one.

2. “Approaching Grade Level” is actually a passing grade

In the 2017-2018 school year, the Texas Education Agency changed the classifications for grades achieved on the STAAR test. Previously, your child could have earned an Unsatisfactory, Satisfactory, or Advanced grading. The updated terms are Did Not Meet (fail), Approaches Grade Level (pass), Meets Grade Level (pass), Masters Grade Level (pass).

3. Your student’s performance can have consequences

  • Failure to pass results in up to 2 re-tests, and can result in attending summer school to catch up. The re-tests are usually held in June and/or July in time for entry to the next school year.
  • If students do not pass in 5th or 8th grade particularly, then they may be held back a grade level. This is determined by multiple factors and is usually decided by the school’s principal.

4. Students must do more than just “know” the material

  • The TEKS standards consist of 8 different key verbs that dictate what mastery of a skill looks like. These verbs are: Solve, Develop, Identify, Compare, Analyze, Describe, Explain, and Use. Notice that these are all skills that require deeper understanding and analysis of a concept.

Written by: Abbey Cain, STAAR testing expert and TEKS standards trainer