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Advocate editorial board opinion: Exams may result in broader knowledge for students

By By the Advocate Editorial Board
Sept. 29, 2011 at 4:29 a.m.


Some kind of test is necessary to measure whether high school students are ready for college. These tests help schools improve and ensure students' success.

The Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, or TAKS, has been the test since 2003.

But in an effort to improve students' performance, a new test has been introduced and will replace TAKS. The STAAR - State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness - will be implemented in the 2011-2012 school year and will result in a bundle of 12 end-of-course assessments, according to Robert Scott, commissioner of education on the website educationnews.org. The first Victoria students who will take the STAAR end-of-course tests are currently in the ninth grade.

End-of-course assessments include a variety of academics rather than the basic reading, writing and math.

In the mean time, ratings of grade levels and school districts will be suspended in 2012, and a new rating process based on STAAR will be introduced in 2013.

So we will not have any measurement of students' readiness for a year or more, it seems.

We have heard many complain about TAKS because teachers end up "teaching the test," but as we understand it, that will not be the case with STAAR.

"While we don't know what exactly the test will look like, we know that it will continue to test the elements of the state of Texas curriculum, called TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills). Under TAKS, each one of those elements carried the same weight in testing," said Dionne Loughmann, Victoria school district's Assessment and Accountability Coordinator.

"With STAAR, some of those elements will carry a much greater weight. We will not know which of those elements might carry a greater weight. Therefore, the students have to truly comprehend all of the elements. There's no skipping over some parts of the curriculum. Everything has to be covered or the student will likely not be successful," she said.

"There is no 'teaching the test.' It all has to be 'teaching the full curriculum' for the students to be successful," she added.

We know "teaching the test' will be going away. And that probably is good because students likely will have a broader knowledge of academics entering college.

As STAAR begins, we'll have to wait and see whether this new assessment test is going to work. We are encouraged to think STAAR will serve to teach our students more and result in students being well prepared for college. However, with that said, we really won't know how our students are doing during the year or more that ratings are suspended.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.

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