School officials weigh in on STAAR results

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GRAYSON CO., TX-Texas senators are challenging the state's standardized testing system saying too many students fail the new State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness test. Results from the test, also known as STAAR have just been released.

Several area school administrators told us just last month they were concerned that the STAAR test makes up too much of a student's grade and requires them to teach solely to the test. And after seeing their scores, they tell me they'll be making some adjustments in their curriculum.

"We're making gains if you're looking at a comparison between the district and the state. We're doing well in many of the areas, it continues to show us we need to focus on mathematics. That's our target."

Denison ISD Director of Special Programs and Assessment, Brent Hoy, said they hope to raise their STAAR math scores by raising the level of difficulty of their curriculum to teach to the test. He said the STAAR is more rigorous than the previous TAKS test.

"Things that were applied in 7th grade previously might be moved to 5th grade, 6th grade maybe moved down to 4th grade. In some cases some of the concepts may go from 7th grade down to 4th grade because they need to be presented, introduced and taught at that level now," he said.

"Teachers had to really work hard to meet the new standards and of course the STAAR test. The passing percentage goes up in another year so we have another hurdle to get past them."

Van Alstyne Superintendent, Dr. John Spies said they're also analyzing their programs to meet the new test's standards but said he's happy about the scores his students received.

"We're very pleased with the results, most of the grade levels and the subjects made an outstanding job. Our scores averaged about 10 percent above the state average at all the different grade levels," he said.

Both Spies and Hoy said it's difficult to tell if their districts did better or worse than in the past because the STAAR was more difficult than the TAKS and it will continue to change in the future. For both districts, of the students who failed the test, more failed social studies than any other subjects.

"We're low again, but it's an area that we continue to work on, we try to focus. I think if you look across the state, not just our district, or in our area, but across the state, social studies is one of those that's suffering as well," said Hoy.

"I think we need to be accountable, I think the way that they're going about it is wrong. Right now, some of the tests is so strenuous that only the passing rate I 38 percent," said Spies.

Education Commissioner Michael Williams also announced that because all Texas school districts are still transitioning to the STAAR. The Texas Education Agency will not assign accreditation statuses for the 2012-2013 school year. A school district's accreditation is based on its standardized test scores, graduation and drop-out rates. Both Denison and Van Alstyne ISDs are currently accredited.