From botched distribution of exams to concerns about so-called teaching to the test, educators and parents alike have been critical of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, standardized tests since their rollout in 2012. And over the past few years, something unusual has been happening: students who are otherwise successful in the classroom are failing the exams.
Mimi Swartz is executive editor of Texas Monthly, and wrote an article for the magazine this week questioning the assumption that the STAAR test is a suitable way to evaluate a student’s academic proficiency.
Swartz says studies found that these tests are too hard, with material that is almost two years ahead of student’s expected reading level, for example.
“A fifth-grader would be expected to read at a seventh-grade level, for instance,” Swartz says. “Third grade would be expected to read at a fifth-grade level. This is not what we normally expect from children.”
In the studies, researchers tested the exams using measures including the Lexile scale – a system commonly used by librarians to determine reading levels for kids. When the Lexile scale was applied to the STAAR test, Swartz says the score came up too high.
The test that came before the STAAR, called the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, or TAKS, was considered too easy, Swartz says.
“And the STAAR test is considered too hard. … If we could now find a test that’s in the middle, we’d have Texas in a really good spot.”
Written by Sara Schleede.