Students

Students across the state are wrapping up a week of State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests.

Meanwhile Lewisville ISD officials are supporting legislation that would address one thing they say is unfair about the assessments.

Trustee Kristi Hassett on Tuesday spoke in front of a House Committee to show support for House Bill 4242, which is one of several bills that aims to address the readability of certain tests.

LISD and other districts around the state have long opposed the use of the STAAR test as a graduation requirement and a factor in district/campus ratings.

Among their concerns – and a key point Hassett made to the committee – is the test’s readability level does not align with the grade level being tested.

“STAAR was not designed to determine reading level,” Hassett said. “The STAAR’s purpose is to test grade level skills and grade level knowledge.”

Hassett referenced three outside studies that looked at the readability on the STAAR reading test in grades three through eight. Two of those were conducted by Professor Susan Szabo and Associate Professor Becky Barton Sinclair of Texas A&M University-Commerce in 2012 and 2019.

The studies indicated the readability level is between one and three grade levels above the tested level.

For example, the study found that in the third-grade reading exam the readability for the first passage was at the fourth-grade level, the second one was at sixth-grade and the third one was at seventh-grade.

The study also indicated readability levels for the eighth-grade reading exam ranged from fifth grade to 11th grade.

“As a mom, I don’t want that test being at the fifth-grade level,” Hassett said. “I don’t want it being at the 11th-grade level, either.”

HB 4242, authored by Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio), calls for a variety of measures, including an independent audit by qualified teachers with Texas teaching experience into readability within grade level of the STAAR test. The evaluation for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 tests would have to be complete by Nov. 1.

The bill mandates students would not face sanctions based on their performance of the 2018-19 test, such as not being able to graduate because they didn’t pass the STAAR.

And there would be a moratorium on the STAAR in 2019-20 until it is determined by an outside agency that it teaches Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) at the appropriate grade level.

“When a student sees that they don’t pass, it can be detrimental to them,” Hassett said.

Hassett said she’s hopeful HB 4242 passes and is encouraged that the House gave heavy support for an amendment to HB 1 that calls for an audit specifically to third-grade STAAR.

“It shows they understand the issue of readability,” Hassett said.

LISD plans to vote on a resolution Monday that supports the components of HB 4242.

“LISD has long been an advocate for meaningful reform to the state’s accountability system,” said Superintendent Kevin Rogers. “We support any efforts to ensure the tests required by the state are valid instruments that assess what they are intended to assess. HB 4242 is certainly a step in the right direction.”

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