Dear Alief ISD Key Communicator,

In just a few days, we will begin administering our first series of the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exams. Our teachers and our students have worked extremely hard, and I am confident they are ready to tackle this new challenge! My message today addresses what we have been doing differently in the classroom as we make the transition from the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) to the STAAR.

One of our first steps was to go back and re-evaluate the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). TEKS are the core skills and knowledge that all students need to succeed. We have thoroughly reviewed our curriculum to ensure that standards assessed (tested) on STAAR align with what is being taught in the classroom. The Texas Education Agency has defined these standards in two categories: readiness standards and supporting standards. Readiness standards are critical for success in the current grade/course and ultimately for college and career. Supporting standards are skills that reinforce what has been taught and learned the previous school year, or are the foundation for those to be learned in the subsequent years.

A major emphasis in our district has been on giving teachers the time to focus on the readiness standards. Our content coordinators (math, science, reading, writing and social studies) restructured the district’s curriculum to mirror the expectations of the state for each subject, at each grade level. This was a huge part of our game plan as we wanted to make sure that all of our teachers understood the depth and complexity at which their students are going to be assessed. An example would be students having to solve multi-step problems assessing several different TEKS. They might have to read a map, measure the driving distance and calculate the arrival time all in one problem. This helps our students prepare for applying knowledge in the real world.

Teachers have also concentrated on increasing student engagement and student discourse or dialog. There has been a shift from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning. We want the students actively engaged in the learning process. It is a proven fact that the student who is actively engaged in a lesson (talking, thinking, reading, writing, etc.) is the one who is most actively learning.

Of course, we continue to analyze data to develop and monitr individual plans for our students. Each child is unique and learns in different ways. Our ultimate goal is to set each student on a path toward college and career readiness.

Thank you for your continued support and interest in the Alief Independent School District by serving as a key communicator. Please let me know if there are any topics that you would like me to address in future messages.


HD Chambers

Superintendent of Schools