GLEN ROSE – Since its implementation during the spring 2012 semester, the validity of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests, which is administered to grades 3-12, has been marred in scrutiny. Then, late in the afternoon Friday, June 10, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) issued a fresh round of ammunition to those opposed to the STAAR’s standardized.

Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath cited “ongoing reporting issues” with the current testing vendor utilized by the TEA when he notified administrators of the removal of consequences for 5th and 8th grade students who may have failed portions of this year’s STAAR tests.

“The decisions outlined […] are based on TEA’s commitment to our districts and students, and with the priority of ensuring that those affected are not penalized due to our ongoing vendor reporting issues,” Morath said in his June 10 press release. “Given that, June STAAR test results will not be required to be used for promotion decisions for [Student Success Initiative] purposes and are not used for accountability, I am cancelling the June administration of STAAR for grades 5 and 8.“

Morath also noted that the state would be “modifying the requirements for SSI and the reporting requirements for Confidential Student Reports (CSR).”

Glen Rose ISD Superintendent G. Wayne Rotan agreed that the problem did in fact arise when the state moved away from its previous vendor contract with Pearson.

Rotan also noted the statewide reporting issues have ranged from students being kicked out of online versions of the tests, test starting over or not saving answers, and even some districts facing issues with lost answer documents.

“[Glen Rose ISD] had several answer documents that weren’t coded and our staff had to go in and hand code each one of those, which took several hours to do,” Rotan said. “I think that with all of the troubles that have occurred statewide and with the transition to the new testing company, that the state lost faith in the validity of the test.

“STAAR and EOC are important tests, but I think there are other, better ways to measure the success and culture of a campus. With some of the grading issues, for instance with the essays that were graded incorrectly, it puts doubt in my mind of the validity of the current tests.”

Rotan, who currently serves on the executive committee of the Texas School Coalition, said ultimately the assessment of a student’s progress should be a joint effort between the teacher who sees the development on a day-to-day basis and the parent – not a “one-day snapshot” like STAAR.

“We teach the curriculum, which is what the STAAR test is supposed to cover, and for them to spend all year and it come down to something that could possibly have errors in it…that is not a real valid way to test a student’s growth,” Rotan said. “I feel like the teacher who is in the classroom with those students and teaching them on a daily basis knows better how a student is doing than a one-day snapshot of a performance on a test that may or may not be reliable or valid.

“When a teacher works with a student all year long, the teacher and the parents are going to know where a student is academically – both in areas of strength and ongoing growth. I think those decisions are best made on the campus between the teacher and the parents.

“The results on a test, I don’t think, can ever accurately reflect what goes on in a classroom,” Rotan added. “Students get test anxiety or don’t feel well on the day of the test or something has happened in their lives – it just isn’t a great picture of what has gone on in that classroom and how that student has grown all year.”

Where the TEA goes now is anyone’s guess, according to Rotan.

“I don’t know that there is any way right now to speculate what the state does [moving forward]. We have tried for several years for the state to change its reliance on high-stake testing and I think the problems that we have had with this year’s testing certainly helps our cause,” he added. “It has been a very rough and rocky transition to the new testing company, that’s for sure.”

According to Morath, the TEA is working diligently to address any additional reporting concerns as those arise.

“I deeply apologize for the continuing problems your students and staff are being forced to deal with because of ongoing reporting issues with our testing vendor,” Morath said.

In the meantime, the State Board of Education is soliciting public input via an online survey. The information being sought, according to a June 14 TEA press release is directly concerning the current student assessment programs utilized by the state.

The results of the online survey that runs through end-of-business June 30 will be complied into a report to be presented July 19-22 to the State Board of Education.

For more information, visit the TEA website at tea.texas.gov or call (512) 463-9007.

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Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith

(254) 896-2282