You may have seen media coverage this week regarding the misalignment of what is tested on the reading component of the STAAR exam to what is actually being taught in classrooms throughout the state. There is currently a problem in the state’s education system. Our standardized test is broken.

Teachers across Texas, including the dedicated teachers here in Alief ISD, have been left scratching their heads, wondering why predictive tests show that students perform at grade level, yet the STAAR results show scores lower than expected.

Experts have uncovered that many of the STAAR reading exam’s questions are written an average of two grade levels above where they should be – In some cases even higher. By that standard, if a student in third grade is not reading at the fifth grade level, then STAAR deems that child “not on grade level.” Students may be reading on grade level but nevertheless are mislabeled as not reading on grade level.

The consequences of this misalignment stretch beyond the classroom. The STAAR test results are used by the Texas Education Agency to assess not just student performance, but also teachers, schools and entire districts. The TEA uses these results to label schools as a success or failure. Those ratings can tarnish the reputations of kids and neighborhoods alike.

It’s no secret that I am not a proponent of using one test on a single day in April as an accurate measurement of whether a student has mastered his or her grade level – but that test should at least be accurate. Based on all the evidence presented, the state’s current testing system is flawed and the children and teachers of Texas are the ones suffering the consequences.

I testified for more than two hours at the House Public Education Committee hearing on Tuesday. Many experts also testified throughout the day on the discrepancies on the STAAR exam. The TEA commissioner basically admitted that the STAAR exam was flawed, but that the state will continue to use it anyway. So, he’s practically condoning that state officials are misleading students, parents and teachers.

Let me be clear that I am not against accountability. The issue here is ensuring that our standardized test actually measures grade-level expectations. Calling students “at risk” because they failed on a misaligned test is a gross misuse of the state assessment and accountability system.

Let me call your attention to the two newest episodes of the ImpactED podcast. Episode 15 “Is the STAAR Test Designed for Your Child to Fail?” features our elementary and secondary language arts staff and shows just how the state of Texas is using an assessment that is not grade-level appropriate to penalize students, educators and schools.

Episode 16 “Accountability – When Schools and Districts are Graded Using the Flawed STAAR Test” featured Dee Carney from Moak, Casey and Associates and our own Natalie Martinez discussing accountability and its impact on Texas Public Schools. You may find all ImpactED podcasts here


H.D. Chambers
Alief ISD Superintendent