April Fool’s Day *aka* STAAR English 2 Testing Day #AprilBlogaDay

I’ve decided to participate in a blog challenge and hope I can keep up.  Today’s challenge (Are You Where You’d Thought You Be?) is difficult because I’m not where I was HOPING to be by this specific time in the school year.

If you read my previous posts, you’ll see that I’ve been visiting the Capitol quite often regarding our state mandated tests known as STAAR.  To say the least, I have H U G E issues with this testing system.  My hope was that by today, April 1, 2015, our state legislators would have listened to the various testimonies given to pass SB 149, which would throw a life line to seniors that still need to pass one of these tests in order to graduate.  I was ecstatic to find out the Senate passed the bill 28-2, and sent the bill to the House on March 18th.  I honestly believed that would be plenty of time for our State Representatives to review and at least vote on the measure before the English 1 and English 2 testing dates this week.  There was even a hearing on March 24th, but the House failed to address the bill.  They FAILED to give almost 20K seniors the hope they could have really used this week before taking what they assume will be the test that determines whether or not they graduate.

So today, April 1st, I watched a handful of seniors go into their testing room with lots of preparation (considering they’ve been enrolled in a STAAR prep class since August) but with little hope.  I spoke with one after and asked how he felt.  He said better than he had “all of the other times” he’s taken it but he’s still not sure if he passed.  He thought he passed the last retest in December but didn’t.

What I can’t understand is what is the point of making someone take an assessment more than 3 times if they repeatedly fail it?  Especially if they’ve been attending weekly intervention meetings AND a testing class listed on their daily schedule?  It’s all they’re going to remember about their senior year, much less the other three years they spent in high school, and that is really unfair.

What’s more unfair is that the test they’re being required to take this week isn’t even the same test they took (and failed) two years ago.  Two years ago, when the Class of 2015 were sophomores, the English 1 and 2 STAAR tests were spread over two days, with writing tested on one day and reading tested on another, and the tests lasted 4 hours each.  The students had to write three essays plus answer multiple choice questions for the writing portion.  The reading portion consisted of about 5 reading passages with multiple choice questions and then short answer responses.  During this administration, field testing was being allowed and comprised about 20-30% of the entire exam.  That means an entire essay, short answer response, and about 15-20 multiple choice questions did not even count for the students’ final score.  So much field testing didn’t sit well with parents and educators in 2013, so TEA (Texas Education Agency) decided to reduce field testing and also combine the writing and reading tests into one test given on one day.  So, in the spring of 2014, students who had previously failed either the reading or the writing test were then forced to retake the ENTIRE newly combined 5 hour test.

Basically, the Class of 2015 has been treated as the STAAR test’s guinea pigs, but at the end of the day, we are still talking about KIDS.  Kids who have been trying their best to keep up with a constantly changing assessment, and who are being punished when they fail a test that is flawed in so many ways.

I sincerely hope the House votes on SB 149 soon, and that Greg Abbott signs it as law before it’s too late for the Class of 2015.

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