This year my oldest has to start taking the STAAR test, with the 3rd grade subjects being Mathematics and Reading. The STAAR test is the standardized test used in Texas public schools, this test replaced the TAKS test last year and from what I am hearing is much harder. Since we are new to this I am still learning the ins and outs of it, and what it means for my child, but already I have some concerns.
My understanding is that my child’s STAAR scores accumulate from the 3rd grade on, and after graduating high school her cumulative score will determine whether she will be eligible to attend a 2 year or a 4 year college (in Texas. I am not sure how this will effect out of state schools). This article talks a bit about that. In addition to this, if my child fails to pass the STAAR test in any given year, she will not be eligible to move on to the next grade level or graduate high school.
The problem with this test is that even if a child is a straight A student, a model student, if they are not a good test taker they could fail. My daughter worries, and gets stressed during tests…yes, even in the 3rd grade. Last week they took a benchmark test in Math, to see how they would do if they took the STAAR test right now. The test was two hours long, and my daughter cried at her desk because she said she wasn’t sure on some of the answers. She has always been a straight A student, she was tested last year and placed in her school’s GATES program (gifted and talented), I have her do workbooks in the summer so that she doesn’t lose any ground when she is out of school. None of that matters if she gets stressed out while taking this test, and therefore does not receive a good score.
Another issue I have with the current testing, is that on test days the entire school is on lock-down. No visitors allowed in the building. The kids each lunch in their classrooms, have recess in their classrooms, and they have to be quiet all day. This applies even if they are in a grade that doesn’t test (Kindergarten through 2nd). This feels like punishment to the kids, and I don’t blame them…it sounds like punishment to me. I have already decided that on test days I will keep my youngest home from school while she is in Kindergarten through 2nd grade. She starts Kindergarten next year and does not have to take the test until the 3rd grade.
The school’s rating also depends largely on their students test scores. This has created an environment where teachers teach what the kids need to know in order to do well on the tests so that their school receives a good rating. I have even heard that teachers at some schools are threatened with job loss if their students don’t preform well.
This article talks about how the for-profit company that the TEA has hired to grade the STAAR tests hires some of the temporary workers through Craigslist ads. Really?! How about hiring actual teachers or professional tutors? People who actual understand the tests and know how to properly grade them.
I am not an expert on this subject by any means, we are just figuring things out as we experience them. I understand their must be testing in order to access what the children have learned, but I think it is time for some changes to the system we are currently using. There is a lot of parents, and even educators, pushing back right now, which will hopefully bring about the kind of change that is needed.