As timing would have it, our 8-year-old entered third grade just as the state's rolling out the new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness test, which, of course, replaces the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test, which also turned 8 this year.
That means his mom and I have questions, many questions, about the STAAR test -- questions the Texas Education Agency is only now prepared to answer following a state Legislative session that at one point considered suspending STAAR implementation. Just a few days ago, matter of fact, the TEA posted this handy STAAR FAQ.
DeEtta Culbertson, TEA spokesperson, directed me to it this afternoon -- along with the whole STAAR site, which among other things, gives parents, teachers and students a very vague idea of what to expect when testing begins. (There are no sample questions yet, only "blueprints" concerning the kinds and number of questions that will be asked for each grade.) Reason I initially called Culbertson was: At the end of the month, the Dallas Independent School District board will vote to suspend using STAAR test scores when promoting fifth- and eighth-graders at the end of this school year. In case you and your fifth-grader didn't know. Didn't think they needed to vote on that.
"Fifth- and eight-graders had to pass TAKS to get promoted, and that will remain the case with STAAR," she says. "But because we won't have passing standards set [until October], that is being suspended this year. Now, of course, you still have to meet your other course work, and districts can add other requirements for promotion, but that one is suspended for this year."
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Oh, and that "benchmark" test given throughout the DISD last week? "The test was not from us," Culbertson says. (What? I was curious.) "So the district must have developed a benchmark assessment."