The New York Times asks University of Maryland professor to examine STAAR - unsurprisingly, tests are underestimating students
There are lots of questions surrounding the integrity of STAAR tests, and rightfully so. The New York Times decided to perform its own examination. Professor Peter Afflerbach of the University of Maryland analyzed the 2018 3rd-grade Reading STAAR. He found that the test held a risk of underestimating students’ capabilities.
The error is easily identified when any teacher, parent, and student reviews the STAAR report and finds the misalignment between STAAR scores and Lexile levels. What is Lexile? Lexile matches students to skill-based reading materials rather than by age or grade. As referenced in the NYT piece, students are reading well within the identified Lexile levels for their grade, but STAAR scores say not so much... So which is it?
The answer lies in the MO of education reformers. If education reformers can convince legislators to buy into their methodology, then, the public might just follow suit. Let's review the Ed Reform agenda:
1) Public schools are failing miserably;
2) Formally trained and credentialed teachers are the problem; and
3) It’s time for smarter people (i.e., non-educators) to take control.
Since 2012, Reading STAAR scores have been "flat." Typically, we see a steady increase in test scores. However, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) determines pass/fail - or cut - scores in an opposite approach to teaching and learning. In other words, as a classroom teacher, I will provide my students with a rubric - a chart which clearly demonstrates the work required to receive an A. In the contrast lies the methodology of TEA. Students, teachers, nor districts know what the passing scores are until all students have been tested and all tests have been scored.
The rules are being made up as we go.
We typically talk about the STAAR as a high-stakes test because of its consequence-based approach for students and teachers. But, let's review the high-stakes for all stakeholders:
Let's also view this from the perspective of homeowners. A failing school may lower property values. For schools to compensate, often property taxes are raised to generate the now missing school funding. However, if a charter were to expand its operation into a TEA labeled "failed" school community, not only would they be 100% funded by the state - the charter operators also receive an additional $1,800 - $2,200 per student. These funds are not available to public school students.
Blame the teachers and the students:
"A spokesman for the Educational Testing Service, the nonprofit that produces STAAR, referred questions to the Texas Education Agency. The agency said it stood by the test questions, which had been approved by a panel of teachers and field-tested on Texas students."
Data & Research:
"Two academic papers, published in 2012 and 2016, concluded that, on average, reading passages on Staar tests were written one to three grade levels above the tested grade level. The Texas Education Agency has said it was in the process of making changes to the exam.
The New York Times asked an independent expert on reading and testing, Peter Afflerbach of the University of Maryland, to examine last year’s third-grade STAAR reading test. He found that the test held a risk of underestimating students’ capabilities."
Have the Ed Reformers won? No! Not at all. Texans are self-determined folk. We believe in our teachers, we support our public schools, and we do whatever it takes for our students to succeed. The message to Ed Reformers is clear - we see what you're doing, and we aren't going to be silenced any longer.
Read the NYT piece: Texas Says Most of Its Students Aren’t Reading at Grade Level. But Are Its Tests Fair?