• by Morgan Craven, J.D. • IDRA Newsletter • June-July 2019 •
Changes Made to STAAR; Individual Graduation Committees Extended
The core purpose of school accountability systems is to assess schools’ effectiveness and identify areas that need strengthening. Sound, research-based systems must be in place to evaluate how effectively schools support students and how students perform academically.
As the Texas legislative session began in January, several reports revealed that the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) reading assessments did not test at appropriate grade levels (for more on the reported STAAR design flaws, see IDRA’s statement: “Reported STAAR Design Flaws in Reading Show Why High-stakes Punishments Should be Removed from the STAAR”). Concerns about the report findings merged with ongoing concerns about testing with high-stakes consequences. Policymakers approved several bills that could change how districts approach assessments and measure college readiness.
Policy Brief: Don’t Block Graduation Because of a Test
House Bill 3, the school finance bill passed in June, requires the Commissioner of Education to contract with a university to conduct a study of the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school year assessment instruments to determine whether reading assessments were written at appropriate grade levels and whether all assessment content aligns with the essential knowledge and skills identified for students’ corresponding grade level.
Senate Bill 213 extends the use of Individual Graduation Committees for four years. IGCs ensure that Texas does not measure subject mastery solely by one test. They enable students who do not pass one or two end-of-course exams to have their portfolio of coursework reviewed by a team of educators and either the student, a parent or guardian, or a designated advocate.
House Bill 3906 makes several changes that impact the STAAR test. The bill:
- Allows students to take the STAAR over the course of multiple days, prohibits schools from administering the test on the first day of the academic week, limits the proportion of allowable multiple choice questions, and allows the State Board of Education (SBOE) to establish new rules about when students can take math assessments with the aid of technology.
- Eliminates the fourth and seventh grade writing tests (including spelling and grammar), although it allows schools to use a classroom portfolio method to assess writing proficiency.
- Directs the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to develop interim assessment instruments that school districts may use to determine students’ proficiency in a particular subject or course. The state cannot use these interim instruments for accountability purposes. Additionally, TEA must establish a pilot program for participating districts to use formative testing instruments and to determine the feasibility of replacing the current summative tests with formative assessment instruments.
- Instructs the Texas Commissioner of Education to appoint committees to provide recommendations on the development of valid, reliable and academically-appropriate assessment instruments.
- Requires TEA and SBOE to develop a plan so that the state can offer all assessments electronically by the 2022-23 school year.
IDRA will continue its work to support research-based evaluation and assessment systems that identify and respond to district and student needs.
IDRA. (2019). Don’t Block Graduation Because of a Test. Policy brief. San Antonio: IDRA.
IDRA. (March 4, 2019). Reported STAAR Design Flaws in Reading Show Why High-stakes Punishments Should be Removed from the STAAR. San Antonio: IDRA.
Morgan Craven, J.D., is the IDRA National Director of Policy. Comments and questions may be directed to her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.