STAAR

Rune Mathisen/Texas Tribune

A UT professor has released research that could be a big problem for state testing.

Walter Stroup is a UT professor in charge of a pilot math program for middle school students in Dallas. The Texas Tribune writes that Stroup and two other researchers have compiled studies on the TAKS standardized test, which they say demonstrates an error related to the statistical method used to assemble the tests – suggesting that the tests are essentially useless at measuring effective classroom instruction.

Education company Pearson has a $468 million contract to write the state’s standardized tests through 2015. It is also responsible for the controversial STAAR test.

STAAR Retesting Begins Today

Students across Texas who didn’t pass subjects of the STAAR exam will begin retaking the tests today.

Last year’s ninth-graders were the only students who had to pass the tests to graduate on time as seniors. Next year, the passing requirement will affect both ninth and tenth-graders. The STAAR test will continue to phase-in to each grade, eventually completely replacing the TAKS test.

Also starting next year, the STAAR exam will make up 15 percent of a high school student’s final grade in a subject.

KUT News

Lawmakers to Hear Testimony on STAAR Implementation

State lawmakers will get an update today on how the rollout of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, known as STAAR, went this spring. The exam is the state’s latest school accountability test.

Figures released this month indicated that many Texas ninth graders performed poorly on the test. As the Texas Tribune previously reported, “This year, the scores on the exams don’t count toward high school students’ final grades or toward school districts’ accountability ratings. But a requirement that students retake a test if they do not achieve a minimum score remains in place.” So due to low scores, many students will retake exams this summer.

by KUT News; Photo courtesy Harris County Sheriff's Department; Photo courtesy AISD

STAAR Retesting Costing School Districts

Hundreds of Texas students will spend time in summer classes, preparing to retake their STAAR exams.

The STAAR exams replaced the TAKS tests this year. As students and districts adjust to the new tests, performance standards and requirements are being phased in. The results of this year’s scores did not affect students’ final grades, but students still have to retake tests on subjects they didn’t achieve a minimum score in.

Our reporting partner The Texas Tribune writes that the summer classes and retakes are leaving schools with hefty bills, as districts have to hire teachers to conduct these classes.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Austin school board members meet tonight and they have a lot to talk about. The nine men and women who govern the largest district in Central Texas will get a first glance tonight at how well students in Austin did on the state’s new standardized test – the STAAR exam.

So far, much like the state outcomes, AISD results are mixed. Almost half of high school students failed the writing test. But more than four out of five passed the high school biology test.

Why the big difference? One major reason is this: A passing grade on the writing test is 65 percent. A passing grade in biology is 37 percent.

Photo illustration by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

Victoria Hospital Bans Overweight Job Applicants

KUT News' reporting partner, The Texas Tribune, reports a hospital in Victoria, Texas, bans job applicants from employment for being too overweight.

The Citizens Medical Center policy, instituted a little more than a year ago, requires potential employees to have a body mass index of less than 35 — which is 210 pounds for someone who is 5-foot-5, and 245 pounds for someone who is 5-foot-10. It states that an employee’s physique “should fit with a representational image or specific mental projection of the job of a healthcare professional,” including an appearance “free from distraction” for hospital patients.

School Districts Take Advantage of STAAR Rule Change

Mar 21, 2012
Photo by Rune Mathisen, Texas Tribune

As the first of 2.5 million Texas public school students prepare to take new state-mandated standardized tests next week, ninth graders in at least a third of the state’s school districts won’t have to worry about how the test will affect their end-of-year grades. 

As of Tuesday, 405 of the state’s roughly 1,200 school districts had told the Texas Education Agency that they would not factor State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) scores into students’ grades for the 2011-12 school year.

The districts have said they will defer the implementation of a rule that says the new end-of-course exams must account for 15 percent of high school students' grades for one year. They are taking advantage of a change in the rollout of the exams the Texas Education Agency announced in February. For many, it was a welcome compromise as the state transitioned to the new system.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/joegratz

Redistricting Maps Must be Drawn By Saturday for May Primaries

According to the Texas Tribune, if redistricting maps are not drawn by Saturday, March 3 then primaries will move to June.

The Tribune reports that the primaries cannot be held on May 29 if the deadline is not met this weekend. Instead, the date will yet again be pushed back, this time to June 26.

“The lawyers working on House maps have been pushing back and forth, primarily on three districts, and haven't produced an accord. And congressional maps, several lawyers have said, will have to be drawn by the three federal judges in San Antonio, because the parties can't seem to find common ground."

If the primaries are held in late May or June, the primary runoffs will be delayed to July 31 or August 28 reports the Tribune.

KUT News' Andy Uhler sheds some light on the court's long battle over the redistricting maps.

KUT News

STAAR-Crossed Educators Take Second Look at Test

Districts from across Texas are finding ways to curtail a component of the STAAR exam that makes the test  count towards students' grade-point averages and class rank, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The move comes in the wake of a growing unease with the role of standardized testing.

While the exam is required by law to compose 15 percent of a student's grade in each course, no specific guideline for doing so exists. With that leeway, individual districts are taking the reins into their own hands. Georgetown and Pflugerville, for example, have set minimum scores on end-of-course exams at 60 and 69, respectively.

In Austin, AISD has polled parents on several potential courses of action. Currently, all of the proposed options would affect class rank.  But now with the actions of surrounding districts, AISD is poised to change how they'll incorporate the scores.

The Austin school board will meet today to discuss end-of-course exams. The meeting is at 6:30 p.m., Carruth Administration Center Board Auditorium, Room B100, 1111 W. Sixth St.

Photo by Ben Philpott for KUT News

Governor to Speak at Reagan Dinner

Gov. Rick Perry will be the keynote speaker tonight at the annual Williamson County Reagan Dinner.

Photo by KUT News

AISD Public Hearing on Bond Money

During the Austin ISD’s school board meeting tonight there will be a public hearing on how to spend the 2008 Bond Program's contingency funds. The 2008 bond initiative gave the district $343 million to spend on projects to meet new health requirements and to upgrade technology.

Photo by KUT News.

City Taking a 2nd Look at WTP4

The Austin City Council  approved a resolution Thursday to look into how much it would cost the city to postpone construction of the rest of Water Treatment Plant No. 4  for five or ten years.

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