Frequently Asked Questions
New state laws focus on end-of-course exams
February 11, 2010
As required by two new state laws, the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) will replace the eight-year-old Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) as the state’s official student-assessment system in the 2011–2012 school year.
To promote a smooth and successful transition at that time, HISD is taking immediate steps to:
* inform students, parents, and teachers about the major change ahead, and
* prepare students to perform well on the STAAR system’s more-difficult end-of-course exams at the high-school level.
The end-of-course exams are a key component of the STAAR system, which is designed to help students meet college-readiness standards. These new exams are course-specific, more rigorous than the TAKS, and administered online (not with pencil and paper).
Texas Education Agency (TEA) STAAR Schedule
* Students in the graduating Class of 2015, who are currently in the seventh grade, will be the first students who will have to meet the new end-of-course testing requirements.
* Starting with the high-school freshmen of 2011–2012, students will have to pass certain end-of-course STAAR tests as well as their classes to graduate from high school. The exams will also, at that time, be included as part of a student’s final grade as dictated by the new law.
* The TEA will issue its last TAKS-based school accountability ratings in 2011. Ratings will be suspended in 2012 while TEA develops a new accountability system based on the new state tests, and the agency will start using the new rating system in 2013.
The STAAR end-of-course assessments will ultimately be used for the 12 high-school courses in the four core subject areas (math, science, language, social studies) that Senate Bill 1031 mandated in 2007. The 12 courses are:
MATH SCIENCE LANGUAGE SOCIAL STUDIES
Algebra I Biology English I U.S. History
Algebra II Chemistry English II World Geography
Geometry Physics English III World History
The state has finalized only seven of the new tests at this point: Algebra I, Geometry, Biology, Chemistry, U.S. History, Physics, and World Geography. Those are the ones HISD will begin giving in May in every high school and selected middle schools.
Starting in 2011–2012, the STAAR tests will also be used for the new grades 3–8 assessments mandated by House Bill 1 in the 2009 session of the Texas Legislature. By law, the STAAR reading and math tests for grades 3–8 must be linked from grade to grade to performance expectations for the English III and Algebra II end-of-course exams.
What HISD Is Doing to Prepare
To give students experience with taking the new tests, HISD will begin administering the state-developed end-of-course exams to high-school students in May, 2010—two years before students will be required to pass certain exams for graduation. The results of these early tests won’t count officially toward student graduation or on HISD teachers’ value-added records for ASPIRE Award performance pay at this time, but they will be used for diagnostic purposes to see how our students are performing on these more-rigorous assessments.
HISD’s goals are to:
* Make students familiar with and accustomed to the new end-of-course tests, which 1) will be significantly more difficult than the TAKS, 2) will measure specific course content, and 3) must be taken online.
* Determine students’ strengths and weaknesses and develop improvement strategies.
* Inform students, parents, and teachers about the upcoming tests and their requirements.
* Make sure HISD’s curriculum and professional development are aligned with the next generation of state-mandated achievement tests to ensure that teachers have the tools that they need to ensure student success.
* Prepare the district’s technology infrastructure for a large-scale online assessment program.
HISD is being proactive to prepare all stakeholders for the new assessment system through the administration of these early tests and other initiatives.
The district is working with the TEA as it develops the guidelines for the new STAAR system, specifically with regard to the online end-of-course assessments.
A committee of principals has been looking at ways to assure a smooth transition and successful implementation of these end-of-course exams prior to their being mandated with a high-stakes outcome in 2011–2012.
In addition, the district is developing a communications plan to give students, teachers, and the public more information about the new STAAR system as soon as TEA releases further details. These plans include a page on the HISDConnect Web site and ongoing communications with all stakeholders.