STAAR critics miss the point

Nov 10, 2022

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By Alex Elizondo
CEO of Good Reason Houston

With the recent release of test scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) on the heels of the latest STAAR test results and accountability ratings, it’s clear that Houston students are facing historic declines in achievement. No matter how you look at it, both state data and national data point to the fact that we are failing our students, and we have been since before the pandemic disruptions.

When critics argue to do away with the STAAR test as a reaction to this decline, they miss the point. The test is not the problem. In fact, various scientific studies have validated the reliability of the STAAR exam several times over. The real problem is that we are not preparing Texas students to lead choice-filled lives and achieve success after high school. 

It is critical that Texas has a standard, objective measure by which to assess whether students are learning and on track for success after high school graduation. While I can appreciate that there are various factors that go into developing a well-rounded student, indicators such as extracurriculars and fine arts are not standard across all public school systems in Texas. Including such factors would exacerbate inequities and potentially hide how students are performing academically.

A standardized test such as the STAAR provides parents and schools with much-needed data points to measure whether students are on-track with their learning – and ultimately – if they are prepared to succeed beyond high school. It is in the best interest of the student, the parents, the school, and our community to know whether students are moving forward academically.

As CEO of Good Reason Houston, a nonprofit focused on improving public school education for every child in Houston regardless of what neighborhood they live in, I believe parents and school leaders deserve compassionate honesty. 

Measuring a student’s academic success provides parents with transparent information with which to make important decisions about their child’s education and their future. If their child has not successfully progressed in their learning, they need to know about it so that they can determine how best to support their child. When parents look at measures, it helps them make the best decisions for their child. 

At the same time, educators need this data to become better-equipped to individualize learning for each student. Students learn at different paces and teachers need to be able to identify where students need support – this is what a standardized assessment helps to achieve – a test that compares apples to apples.