The Texas Education Agency has announced that STAAR assessments for grades 5 and 8 mathematics will be administered only once in the 2014-15 school year.
Commissioner of Education Michael Williams said the change to the testing schedule for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STARR, was due to the transition to revised statewide curriculum standards in math.
As a result, the requirement that students in grades 5 and 8 pass the STAAR mathematics test in order to move onto the next grade level will be suspended for the coming school year. Generally, if a student performs poorly on the test, he or she has at least two opportunities to retake the exam. This school year, the test will only be administered one time.
“There are substantial challenges associated with implementation of the revised mathematics statewide curriculum standards in the STAAR grades 3–8 assessments,” said Williams in a May 1 letter to superintendents.
“For the 2014–15 school year, districts will use other relevant academic information to make promotion or retention decisions for mathematics,” he said.
Commissioner Williams noted this suspension of the 5th and 8th grade mathematics requirement applies only for the 2014–2015 school year. State law requiring students in grades 5 and 8 to pass the STAAR reading exam in order to proceed to the next grade level will still be in effect.
Texas Association of Business CEO Bill Hammond released a statement Friday questioning the move.
"One question we should as ourselves: Is TEA turning its back on the future of Texas school children? The pressure is no off of our students, teachers and administrators to ensure our students pass these tests, despite the fact that the future of academic success depends on them learning this material," he said.
The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, TEKS, the statewide curriculum standards, are reviewed and updated on a regular basis by the State Board of Education. As TEKS revisions are made, changes are made to the testing program to keep a link between the TEKS and statewide assessments, according to the agency.
Revised TEKS in mathematics were adopted by the State Board in April 2012. The revised TEKS for kindergarten through grade 8 will be implemented in classrooms and in the grades 3 through 8 assessment program in the 2014–15 school year.
Because performance standards for STAAR grades 3 through 8 mathematics will not be set until after the spring 2015 administration, retest opportunities for STAAR grades 5 and 8 mathematics will not be offered in May and June of 2015.
The agency said this is similar to the approach used in spring 2012 for the first administration of STAAR.
Hammond said the state should not allow children to be promoted if they fail to show proficiency at grade level in mathematics.
"The standard needed to pass these tests is already very low and the commissioner has just lowered that passing standard to zero. This is another example of going back on high standards, even if it is just for this school year," he said.