Coordinator tells trustees: STAAR should let students shine
Lack of information about next year’s end- of- course testing is making things “scary” to some teachers and students, Melanie Mayer told Port Aransas school trustees at their meeting Thursday, March 10.
Mayer, who is the college and career readiness standards coordinator for the school district, said new standards will concentrate not on knowledge, but on how well students apply information they have learned.
“High school courses are supposed to give kids knowledge,” she told the board. “College courses are supposed to teach them to use that knowledge.”
Mayer said studies of 1,200 students nationwide found that kids are graduating from high school but aren’t ready for college – having finished high school algebra II, they were put into remedial algebra courses.
Part of Mayer’s job is to keep up to date on developments in the new testing plan and to make sure fellow teachers have the information they need. The new tests, known as State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, are due to supplant the current Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) next year.
In the future, students will be tested at the end of the course, no matter what the student’s age or grade level, she said. There will be no more sixth- grade, eighthgrade or 11th-grade tests, as there currently are.
A cumulative score on testing equals the student’s grade, and while a low score in some subjects can be balanced by higher scores in others, there are exceptions. Algebra II and English III are both required for college, and end-of-course tests for both subjects must be passed, she said.
Responding to a question from board president Chuck Borders, Mayers said students won’t be able to “pass out” of a subject by taking a test instead of going to class.
“They will still be required to take that course,” she said.
The upshot for students: “ They can no longer wait until 11th grade to ‘get serious’ about grades. They must start preparing in eighth grade for ninth-grade tests, which will count toward graduation,” Mayer said.
The change in schools: “More and more in classrooms, you’ll see students doing things instead of teachers (doing them),” she said.
Mayer said the new standards also will apply to courses that aim a student toward a career instead of toward higher education.
“If you want to be a welder, that’s awesome,” she said. “But the welder’s manual is beyond the level required for high school graduation.”
That means the student still must work to pass the applicable courses, even if he or she doesn’t aim for college.
For teachers: “Make connections, be flexible and think out of the box,” she said.
Trustee Michele Lorette wanted to know if the current state financial crisis, which foresees a shortfall of up to $27 billion for the coming biennium, might postpone adoption of the new standards.
“ There are large school districts pleading to put it off because it will cost more,” said Superintendent Dr. Sharon Doughty.
She explained that, for instance, if a teacher is out of the classroom administering tests, the district will have to pay for a substitute teacher to be in the classroom.
However, “There is no indication that the legislature is willing to put it off,” she said.
Questions? Comments? Contact Phil Reynolds at firstname.lastname@example.org or (361) 749-5131.