Texas Districts Take Different Approaches to STAAR Exams

School districts in Central Texas have begun to distance themselves from state plans to incorporate new standardized tests with students' grade-point averages and class rank.

Officials in Austin, Manor and Pflugerville have announced that they will take another look at policies on how to incorporate the new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) into a student's final grade, writes Laura Heinauer at the American Statesman.

Ninth-graders will start taking the new end-of-course exams next month as it replaces the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test. Districts across the state have been grappling with how to incorporate STAAR and have it count as 15 percent of the student's grade in each course.

Eanes and Round Rock officials have already said that while STAAR will calculated in the district as part of a student's final grade, it won't be used in calculating a student's GPA or class rank, which is what colleges will focus on.

Manor Superintendent Andrew Kim said that he will also reconsider his previous conclusions.

Kim said:

"Originally, we had been somewhat strong about adding it in.

"But after looking at the tenor of what's out there … and with this all possibly being reconsidered in the next legislative session, we figure it would be easier to (leave it out now and) add it in later on."

Critics say the districts are just trying to get around a state law that clearly intends to strengthen school accountability. But officials say they are just responding to concerned parents who have put pressure on the Austin school board to reconsider possible ways to include the STAAR in student grades.

Drew Scheberle, senior vice president for education and talent at the Austin Chamber of Commerce, said:

"When a high school sends a transcript to a college, they recalculate the GPA."

State education Commissioner Robert Scott has said that the state testing system has become a "perversion of its original intent" and that he was looking forward to "reeling it back in."

It's now up to the districts to decide to factor the test into student grades, he said.

"State law is very clear," he said.

"I do not have the authority to issue a uniform grading policy for Texas public schools. Our education system is based on a presumption of local control by elected school boards. In short, my office has been given no authority to override the decisions of local school boards on their grading policies and the applications of the end-of-course exams to a student's grade. An attempt to do so would only invite litigation that would cause further confusion.

"The law creating the 15 percent grading policy requirement was passed by the Texas Legislature in 2007. Two additional regular sessions have occurred since then, and lawmakers have not changed the grading policy provisions. I understand the situation may be causing confusion, and I look forward to working with lawmakers to sort this out in the next legislative session."

02 16, 2012
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