Senate Education Committee takes closer look at STAAR testing

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Senate Education Committee is taking a closer look at STAAR testing. During a hearing Tuesday they examined writing scores for elementary, middle and high school students. Serious questions remain on whether STAAR testing has a future in Texas school districts.

“Our STAAR exam, our current accountability system, doesn’t give us what we need,” said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D). “It doesn’t move the needle.”

Sen. Dan Patrick (R) said, “I think we have a ways to go and we need to continue to pursue what is the best interest of our students.”

The rigorous STAAR testing has been the focus of some controversy among parents and educators. When it comes to statewide results for the 2013-2014 school year, KXAN found that 24-percent of fifth graders failed the reading test and 21-percent failed the math test on the first try. Students are required to pass the math and reading tests in fifth and eighth grade to move up a grade. In eighth grade, 21-percent of students failed the math test and 18-percent failed the reading portion of the test.

Dr. Dawson Orr, Superintendent of Highland Park ISD, spoke at Tuesday’s hearing. He testified saying that students doing well on ACT and AP exams, aren’t succeeding on STAAR testing. Also discussed during the hearing was that students across Texas are struggling with English II.

“The STAAR exam and the way that it’s administered and the abundance of high stakes nature of it, isn’t serving anybody well,” said Van de Putte. “So let’s take a fresh look and see what does work for Texas.”

Discussions made at Tuesday’s hearing could help shape future legislation to improve the testing system. Some Texas parents hope that happens sooner rather than later.

“I think there are too many high stakes and too much emphasis on it in the classroom,” said Jennifer Collins, a parent from Denton.

Collins spoke on behalf of a 7th grader who earned in A in advanced math. He passed the STAAR but was still placed in remedial 8th grade math because his STAAR scores weren’t high enough.

“Certainly is frustrating,” said Collins. “It turns them off to school, it turns them off to learning, it really erodes that level of learning that is so important throughout their whole life.”

She hopes her pleas and those of other parents can sway lawmakers into make some real testing changes in the future.

Texas Education Agency Commissioner Michael Williams also testified Tuesday. He says under STAAR, we’re on course for more students passing than with the previous test known as TAKS. Williams told lawmakers that at this time with TAKS, just 72 percent of students passed, whereas today with STAAR, 84 percent of students have passed.

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