By Michelle Nguyen
Director of System and Schools Support
As Houston public school students return from Spring Break, they will be preparing to take their State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, commonly known as the STAAR. These assessments are administered in the Spring to measure student mastery and growth in the following subjects and grades:
- Mathematics (Grades 3–8)
- Reading language arts (RLA) (Grades 3-8)
- Science (Grades 5 and 8)
- Social Studies (Grade 8)
- End-of-course (EOC) assessments for Algebra I, English I, English II, Biology, and U.S History
With the passing of House Bill (HB) 3906 by the 86th Texas Legislature in 2019, there have been several changes to the assessment (intended to better align the STAAR to classroom instruction and experiences). While some of these changes have been piloted or previewed in earlier years, the full STAAR Redesign will be implemented this school year, 2022-23.
STAAR Redesign Changes
The full STAAR Redesign includes four main changes: 1) Online testing, 2) New question types, 3) Cross-curricular passages, and 4) Evidence-based writing. Read on to learn more about each and ways you can prepare and support your student.
This year, all STAAR assessments will be administered online with the exceptions of students taking the STAAR Alternate 2 assessment and students who require accommodations that cannot be provided online. According to the Texas Education Agenda’s (TEA) website: “Online administration allows students to receive accommodations like those they get in the classroom, provides faster test results, improves test operations, and allows new non-multiple-choice questions.”
Tips for preparing and supporting your student: Provide students with opportunities to use a computer or laptop. This can help a student feel more comfortable navigating with a keyboard, mouse or touchpad, or touchscreen. Additionally, it is important that you and your student understand their accommodations and how to access them via the STAAR assessment platform (for example, text-to-speech, dictionary use, and calculation aid). To review accommodation options, take a look at the following resources developed by TEA:
- Online STAAR Accommodations
- Accommodations Available on Online STAAR Tests for Eligible Students
- Practice using these tools by taking a full-length online practice test
New Question Types
Part of the legislation (HB 3906) also established a cap on the number of multiple choice questions that can be asked on the STAAR test. In its place, new question types, that are non-multiple choice, have been created to allow students to show their understanding in different ways. Question types will vary by grade level and content area but examples include open-ended responses and selecting multiple correct answers.
Tips for preparing and supporting your student: One of the goals of this change is to better reflect questioning and thinking that your student engages in as part of learning. It can be helpful to encourage your student to explain or demonstrate their thought process and consider multiple possible solutions to a question or problem. To see what type of questions will be on your student’s STAAR exam, take a look at the following resources developed by the TEA:
- New question type online samplers
- New question types by grade level and content area (PDF posted 09/08/22)
Cross Curricular Passages
In the STAAR reading language arts (RLA) assessments, there will be an increase in informational passages that reference other content areas such as social studies, science, mathematics, and fine arts. As a result, students may need to leverage relevant background knowledge and vocabulary from these subjects to support their reading fluency and comprehension.
Tips for preparing and supporting your student: As a teacher or parent, it is important to expose your student to different types of text and varied topics. It can help students explore a particular interest via reading, but it can also challenge them to build knowledge and context in an area in which they are not as familiar. Cross-curricular reading will help students become stronger readers who read to learn, think critically, and make connections. You can preview examples of cross curricular passages using TEA’s online practice tests by grade level and content area (RLA):
In the past, the STAAR had a writing assessment (tested in the 4th and 7th grades). This assessment has been phased out and now, RLA and English I and II STAAR tests will include both reading and writing components. These will include new question types and an extended constructed response, or essay, at every grade level. Rather than writing based on a standalone prompt, students will write in response to a reading selection in one of three possible modes: informational, argumentative, or correspondence. These essays will be scored using a 5-point rubric that includes two main components: idea development and language conventions.
Tips for preparing and supporting your student: The more practice students have with writing, the better! In particular, you can encourage your student to write in response to their learning. Writing is a great way to summarize, reflect and expand on something they read, watched, or experienced. It can also be helpful to refer to TEA’s STAAR writing rubric and constructed response scoring guides (which include Science, Biology, Social Studies, and US History examples) to provide feedback to your student – after all, writing is a process that involves refining ideas and language:
- RLA Writing Rubrics-English/Spanish
- STAAR Scoring Guides (Samples)
- RLA Grades 3-5 Constructed Response (PDF posted 10/7/22)
- RLA Grades 3-5 Constructed Response-Spanish (PDF posted 10/7/22)
- RLA Grades 6-8 Constructed Response (PDF posted 10/7/22)
- English I and II Constructed Response (PDF posted 10/7/22)
- Science Grade 5 Short Constructed Response-English/Spanish (PDF posted 10/7/22)
- Science Grade 8 Short Constructed Response (PDF posted 10/7/22)
- Biology Short Constructed Response (PDF posted 10/7/22)
- Social Studies Grade 8 Short Constructed Response (PDF posted 10/7/22)
- US History Short Constructed Response (PDF posted 10/7/22)
With any change can come feelings of uncertainty. As much as we hope to prepare students for the upcoming STAAR changes, we know that there will be an adjustment period. The ideals of the STAAR Redesign help us think about how we expect students to learn and be fairly yet rigorously assessed.
During this stressful season for teachers, students, and families alike, it will be important to support each other, encourage our students to do their best, and learn from the results.
- TEA STAAR Redesign February 2022 Presentation (PDF, posted 3/7/22
- TEA STAAR Redesign FAQ (PDF, updated 8/30/22)