Dallas, Texas – Upon initial examination, the STAAR test scores from year to year may appear to be largely consistent, with minor fluctuations across various categories. However, this year, there is a significant underlying factor that needs to be taken into account when evaluating these scores.
STAAR underwent significant changes this year, completely new format
Last year, the STAAR test underwent a complete transformation, differing markedly from its previous iteration. This year’s test featured more than a dozen distinct item types, a departure from the exclusive reliance on multiple-choice questions in previous years. Moreover, this marked the first time that the test was conducted online, incorporating embedded cross-curricular reading passages.
“And it was the first year that it was an online test with some embedded, even cross-curricular reading passages. We knew that there was going to be a bit of an implementation debt,” said Angelica Ramsey, superintendent of the Fort Worth ISD, to NBC DFW.
“Everybody was expecting a decline. We were actually expecting declines simply because of the new test design. So the fact that we have, again, what some people might consider not huge gains, I think this says that parents, teachers, community, and definitely our students rose to the occasion,” said Stephanie Elizalde, superintendent of the Dallas ISD.
Students performed very well in mathematics
Both superintendents of the two largest school districts in North Texas, Dallas and Fort Worth ISD, have expressed encouragement at the results they have observed. In the mathematics section, students demonstrated increased proficiency, with their ability to show their work and the methods they employed to solve problems being particularly noteworthy. Rather than relying on computer algorithms, teachers personally graded these tests.
Despite being in more difficult format, students performed well in reading
As for the reading section, it posed new challenges, as it required students to produce essays and elaborate responses, a more demanding task than selecting answers from a multiple-choice format. Despite the heightened difficulty, the scores in this area have largely remained stable. The two superintendents have only recently received the full data and are eagerly poring over the numbers, with the intent of utilizing them to drive further improvements in their respective districts.
“We had 14 areas across where we had double-digit gains. Those are bright spots for us to look at. Now’s the time where we start to dig deeper, look at specific campuses, look all the way down to school level student level, so that we can start replicating what worked and providing support where it’s needed,” said Ramsey.
Elizalde expressed elation at the notable achievement in the mathematics results among fourth graders, which surpassed even the pre-pandemic levels. This accomplishment stands out, especially in the context of many districts across the state struggling to meet these benchmarks.
In response to evolving needs, both school districts have launched new missions for the current academic year. The Dallas district has intensified its efforts to move away from a narrow emphasis on teaching to the test, opting for a more holistic educational approach. Meanwhile, Fort Worth has undertaken the task of fostering a cohesive culture and establishing a comprehensive support system for teachers.
Across the board, schools are demonstrating a more measured approach to these continuously evolving tests, assigning them less weight in the overall assessment of student performance. Despite the potential for fluctuation, educational leaders are heartened to observe that the scores have largely maintained stability rather than experiencing a marked decline.
Meanwhile, North Texas school districts are having hard time to hire enough employees to meet the safety standards mandated by the state.