Essentials Of The New STAAR Tests

The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) is a series of standardized exams used by Texas public schools students to assess students’ academic abilities.  The STAAR test is based on state standards which provide a framework for the material students should be learning in the classroom each year.  The exam measures the academic achievement and learning – in other words, to evaluate how well students are meeting Texas’ grade-level expectations.

 Public school students are not the only ones required to take the STAAR assessment.  Any charter school, private school, or homeschooling that collects financial support from the state of Texas must complete the four-hour exam as well. 

 The STAAR grade-level and end-of-course exams are designed to assess material covered by Texas’ official, state-mandated curriculum for kindergarten through twelfth grade.  In other words, STAAR tests how well students have developed the required knowledge and abilities.  STAAR is designed by Pearson Education Company, which works with teachers and the Texas Education Agency (the division of the state government responsible for public education) to insure that material is grade-appropriate. 

 STAAR replaced the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) in spring 2012 after the Texas State Senate abolished the TAKS exam in 2007.  TAKS had been in place since 2003.  Students who began 9th grade before the 2011-12 school year will continue to take the TAKS exam, and will be the last generation to do so.  Students who are expected to graduate in 2015 will be the first class who must pass all of their courses as well as fulfill state-mandated end-of-course examination requirements in order to receive a diploma. 

 STAAR tests the same subjects as the former TAKS for elementary and middle school students.  Material varies by grade.  Third through eighth graders are assessed on their reading and mathematical skills.  Fourth and seventh graders are tested on their writing and composition abilities.  Fifth and eighth graders must take a science assessment.   Only eighth graders are required to complete a social studies test.

 Where high school students were once required to take grade-specific exams, they now must complete end-of-course exams that are subject-specific.  These subjects include biology, chemistry, physics, Algebra I, geometry, Algebra II, world geography, world history, U.S. history, English I, English II, and English III. 

 Many of TAKS policies carry over onto the STAAR exam; the two standardized tests are very similar.  However, the new STAAR is much more rigorous than the previous TAKS.  It is designed to measure individual performance in various subjects as well as academic growth. 

 Texas’ STAAR exam assists educators and parents in determining whether students are making satisfactory progress towards acquiring the necessary academic knowledge and skills.  State law mandates that students must possess the sufficient skills in order to graduate.  Test results are used as part of an accountability system for public schools to insure that the proper, grade-appropriate curriculum is being used in classrooms across the state.  STAAR test results will also let parents and educators know if students may need additional support or educational assistance in order to succeed in the classroom and beyond.