Every school year, Texas students are tested with a state-based standardized test. Previously called TAKS, the new test is now called STAAR, which stands for State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness. Students in grades 3 through 8 will be taking several STAAR tests during the Spring semester. High school students will be required to take multiple EOC’s (End of Course exams) in order to pass classes and to graduate from high school.
The standards are constantly changing and the state of Texas maintains a very difficult to understand rating system. The state plans to “phase in” increasing levels of ‘satisfactory ratings’, which means the level at which students “pass” the tests will continue to rise. Unfortunately, these standards are listed as arbitrary numbers in a range, so it’s virtually impossible for parents or educators to decipher the passing standards or percentages.
For example, here is description of Level II standards (i.e. satisfactory) at the high school level from the TEA website:
“The scores needed to reach the various performance levels are expressed as scale scores. Once fully phased in, the score needed to achieve Level II performance will be a scale score of 4000 for each of the following assessments: Algebra I, Algebra II, geometry, biology, chemistry, physics, world geography, world history, and United States history. The initial phase-in standard for these tests will be 3500.The scale score needed to achieve a Level II performance on each of the English I, II, and III reading and writing assessments is 2000. The initial phase-in score is 1875.”
Confused yet? That’s just the beginning. Let’s take English I EOC to see the standards set:
In 2012 and 2013, the minimum score is 1813, while the minimum for Level II is 1875.
In 2014 and 2015, those numbers increase to 1887 and 1950, respectively.
In 2016, which is the final phase, those numbers settle at 1936 and 2000.
Do those numbers mean anything to students taking the tests or to parents trying to read the score reports? No.
What’s really concerning is when you factor in the raw score to see the actual percentages?
Using the raw score data conversion table, it shows that the percentage to earn Level II standard of passing the English I Reading test in 2012 was actually only 54%. Yes, that’s correct: an 1875= 54% questions correct. This is “passing”.
The test results for the 3rd to 8th grade students has also been released by Pearson Education, the state’s testing coordinator. The Texas Tribune offers an interactive guide to see how different school district throughout the state performed.
Keep in mind that TEA defines Level I as unsatisfactory, Level II as satisfactory, and Level III as advanced. To learn more about how the TEA defines its performance standards, click here.
Using this interactive guide, I compiled statistics for the local school districts on the southeast side of Houston, including Friendswood ISD, Clear Creek ISD, Pearland ISD, Alvin ISD, Pasadena ISD and Santa FE ISD. You can view this chart here.