Each spring, Texas students are armed with sharpened pencils and healthy snacks to conquer the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness exam (STAAR). Often, it’s the nemesis of students and parents alike, leading some parents in the state – and some in Dallas-Fort Worth – to oppose the exam.
Parents have blamed school boards for putting unnecessary strain on their students. A couple in Waco (who both work in education) told Waco ISD, “they are morally and ethically opposed to standardized testing, or the STAAR test, and the extensive preparation for it.”
But the school officials, although they administer the exam, do not always agree with the necessity of the standardized test. Often, they side with parents who deem the STAAR test “unnecessary.”
For schools, it’s a necessary evil.
“A generalized view throughout Texas is that it [STAAR] is a nuisance and inconvenience,” Chief Academic Officer of Keller ISD Charles Carroll said. “By the same token, it is helpful to have some objective measure of how we’re teaching our students. Both points of view are right. It’s not a solvable problem.”
This spring, Keller ISD responded to one parent’s opposition to the exam by releasing a statement saying, “The district does not have a choice as to whether to administer the state tests to all of its students. What you may perceive as a lack of cooperation from your campus administration is not a choice. Keller ISD campuses follow Texas Education Code, which clearly states that there is no parental right to remove a student from a test. Parents have been misled by websites, Facebook posts, and emails as well as other information that chose not to quote the entire statute, but the law is clear…”
To summarize, standardized testing is not up to the school district. In response to the local parent’s opposition, Carroll said, “I understand where parents are coming from. They’re looking out for the best interest of their child. The district gets caught in the middle.”
The only way to ease the strain of standardized tests is to adequately prepare students. Keller ISD teachers strive to align the curriculum with the state’s testing requirements. This way, students do not feel pressured by the exam and see it as an extension of their curriculum, as opposed to the only evaluation of their education.
“As long is there is a tight alignment, a tremendous amount out of the general education curriculum [for test prep] is not necessary,” Carroll explained. “Teachers working within the curriculum make sure they’re working on a challenging level for our students. That way, students don’t feel overwhelmed.”
Students aren’t alone in feeling pressured by state-regulated exams. In a way, the teacher’s name is associated with a student and his performance. Frisco ISD Area Director for Secondary Instruction Kenny Chandler insists there is no real “connection between teacher appraisal and the test scores of students.”
However, teachers are accustomed to report cards. They want their students to do well on the exam, so they study and prepare for STAAR as well. “Frisco ISD teachers are very good at using data sets to make informed decisions on how to improve their teaching and student performance,” Chandler said.
Chandler continued to raise a point that is too often forgotten: teachers care about more than standardized tests.
“We want our students to be well-rounded and prepared for whatever their future holds,” he said. “Our job is to get all students career and college ready. Testing is just a small part of what we do.”