When students across the state sit down to take the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness this spring, it won’t look like the test they took last year. 

Instead, it will be online, include open-end questions, graphing exercises and feature other changes.

As a result of House Bill 3906, the Texas Education Agency made changes to the STAAR test. The revisions improve the test’s alignment with the classroom experience, Deputy Commissioner of School Programs Lily Laux said.

The state Legislature passed the bill in 2019. The changes are to help match how teachers currently teach, Laux said. 

What are the changes?

To determine changes, Laux said, the agency looked at what effective classroom teachers are doing. 

“They’re building background knowledge of vocabulary and subject areas,” she said. “Previously, passages on STAAR have been grade-level appropriate and we made sure that the overall tests continue to be valid, reliable, but now the test is going to prioritize cross-curricular passages in reading and language arts that actually references things kids would have learned about in other classes.”

Using vocabulary from other lessons in different subjects aligns with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, the state standards of what students should learn, Laux said.

A major change is that all grades will now take the reading test and they will write text-based responses, she said. Previously, the test was all multiple choice. Students now have the chance to write about what they read in the text provided to them.

This also means graders will allot partial credit for the first time, Laux said. Because the test used to be multiple choice, there was not an opportunity for that. The legislation even puts a cap on how many multiple choice items can be on each test.

This matches the classroom better, Laux said, because teachers give open-response questions and partial credit in the grading.

When testing rolls around, students also will put their pencils away because the STAAR will be administered online. 

Taking the test online means the results will be faster and it allows for more accommodations for students, Laux said. The program is designed to include a full suite of accommodations for students who need them.

Districts are prepared for the online testing and because students are such digital natives now, she does not anticipate a dramatic transition, Laux said.

The agency has conducted research, focus groups and field testing since 2019, Laux said, with hopes for an effective rollout this spring. Last year, about 80% of students across the state took the test online, but spring 2023 will be the first year everyone takes it digitally.

How does this impact students?

The test does not have student-level consequences, meaning they are not held back for failing the STAAR, Laux said. The assessment is for students to demonstrate their learning for the district and parents.

STAAR results also are part of the metrics used to measure accountability grades for districts.

Teachers think the new testing model better aligns with how they teach their classes, Laux said.

When results are final, parents will be able to see all the questions and how their child answered, Laux said. They also will be able to see how the test is scored and where students are awarded partial credit.

Laux believes that parents having the ability to see exactly how their child performed on the test, what their answers were and how they are scored will be a popular feature. She thinks parents will be able to see where the student is misunderstanding concepts.

Are you smarter than a middle schooler?

The Report compiled some sample questions from the sixth and seventh grade STAAR tests for a quiz to see what kind of questions are on the STAAR test.

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Kristen BartonEducation Reporter

Kristen Barton is an education reporter for the Fort Worth Report. She has previous experience in education reporting for her hometown paper, the Longview News-Journal and her college paper, The Daily...