The STAAR test is a failure, and we can do better.
Most Texans, including teachers, agree accountability is important in education. The Texas accountability system is overwhelmingly based on student performance on the STAAR test — this standardized test is the sole accountability measurement tool for elementary and middle schools. Student performance on that one test, given on one day, determines the letter grade assigned to schools by the state.
Teachers hate the STAAR test and say it does not reflect true student grade-level performance and growth. Teachers know firsthand that STAAR scores are a better measure of wealth and poverty than student abilities, and do not assess what Texans say also is important for schools to foster in students: creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration.
Research specialists in curriculum and instruction at multiple Texas universities have declared the STAAR test to be an inaccurate tool for measuring student reading abilities.
District administrators loathe the STAAR because they know the punitive nature of grades being assigned to schools based on one test pressures teachers to teach to the test.
Students and parents hate the STAAR test because of the anxiety induced by the very mention of the high-stakes test.
And, the four-year vendor contract for the STAAR test totals almost $400 million. That is a lot of funding that could otherwise be going to our educators and students.
Not to mention historical problems with the testing technology, handling of test records, and delay in reporting scores.
We also know that STAAR testing happens late in the school year, and results aren’t available until months later, during the summer, making it virtually useless for teachers to apply for assessment and recalibration of teaching and learning strategies.
We need appropriate accountability, and Leander ISD deserves better than STAAR
There is no doubt we need to focus on regular assessment of student performance, and that some form of accountability is not only necessary, but also could be actionable for teachers and district administrators. So if STAAR isn’t the answer, what is?
Thankfully, we have another option other than continuing to rely on STAAR as the sole, or primary, measure of student and school performance.
Local districts have the opportunity to explore, codify, and pursue a community-based accountability system based on what we value locally as parents, educators, administrators, and community and business leaders.
I believe this represents a prime opportunity to empower and engage our entire district in a robust dialogue about how to both meet state standards for accountability while also allowing the Leander ISD community to be more innovative and strategic about our curriculum, instruction, assessment, and both proactive and responsive supports for teachers and students.
Our students and educators aren’t failing — the STAAR test is failing us. And it’s time for us to scrap the STAAR and work to build a stronger future for Leander ISD, together.