STAAR: FAQs

  • What is STAAR?
    • The State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, is a new assessment being implemented during the 2011-2012 school year.
  • What is the STAAR implementation plan?
    • During the 2011-2012 school year, STAAR will take the place of TAKS for students in grades 3-9. In 2012-2013, 10th grade STAAR will be added. In 2013-2014, 11th grade will be added and STAAR will be fully implemented.
  • What grades and subjects will be tested with STAAR?
    • In grades 3-8, STAAR will test the exact same grades and subjects as TAKS did. Beginning in 9th grade, STAAR will consist of 12 End-of-Course exams, three exams in each of the four core subject areas. The subjects tested with EOC include Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, English I, English II, English III, World Geography, World History, and U.S. History. In order to graduate, students must pass the EOC exam for each of the associated courses in which they are registered.
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  • Who must take STAAR End-of-Course assessments?
    • Beginning with newly enrolled 9th graders, students entering high school in fall 2011 will be required to take the End-of-Course (EOC) assessment in each subject for which an EOC exists. If a student entering high school for the first time in fall 2011 is enrolled in any of these courses, they will be required to take the EOC exam for the course(s) in which they are enrolled. Additionally, the EOC tests will count as 15% of a student's final grade in the core course which the student took the EOC.
  • What will be required for graduation?
      • To receive a diploma and to participate in graduation ceremonies, the student must:
        • Complete one of the Austin ISD's Distinguished, Recommended or Minimum graduation programs.
        • Meet passing requirements on the State of Texas Assessments:
          Graduating Class State Testing Requirements

          Students entering 9th grade before 2011-12

          Pass all sections of exit-level TAKS

          Students entering 9th grade during 2011-12 and beyond

          Meet minimum requirements on all 12 STAAR EOC exams and meet a satisfactory cumulative EOC passing score requirement (see below) in each of the four content areas of ELA, Math, Science and Social Studies.

          MATH:
          • Algebra I
          • Geometry
          • Algebra II
          ELA:
          • English I
          • English II
          • English III
          SCIENCE:
          • Biology
          • Chemistry
          • Physics
          SOCIAL STUDIES:
          • World Geography
          • World History
          • US History
  • Do the requirements differ according to the graduation plan?
    • Yes. Different levels of performance on English II and Algebra II EOC tests will be required for each of the three graduation plans (Minimum, Recommended and Distinguished).
      • Minimum:
        • Meet cumulative score requirement based on the number of courses taken for which an end-of-course test exists. (Cumulative score requirement may vary by subject area.)
      • Recommended:
        • Meet cumulative score requirement in each of four core content areas, and
        • Perform satisfactorily on -
          • Algebra II test
          • English III test
      • Distinguished:
        • Meet cumulative score requirement in each of four core content areas, and
        • Perform at the Advanced Academic Performance level on the -
          • Algebra II test
          • English III test
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  • When will the state's requirements regarding graduation go into effect?
    • The class of 2015 will be the first class to undergo four years of EOC testing. Therefore, they will be the first class required to fulfill the state's new graduation requirements. Students graduating before 2015 will continue to take TAKS.
  • Will high school students be allowed to retake STAAR EOC tests?
    • Yes. Students at the high school level will be able to retake any of the STAAR EOC assessments. (Students in grades 5 and 8 will be able to re-test in reading and math in order to meet their promotion criteria beginning in 2013 as the state is not offering re-test opportunities in 2012.)
  • How many more testing days will the STAAR assessment require?
    • STAAR significantly increases the number of testing days at the high school level. Currently, there are 25 TAKS testing days, including exit-level re-testing. STAAR EOC will require up to 45 testing days when it is fully implemented in 2015. (Note: Districts will administer 45 days of testing but that does not mean students will be taking 45 days worth of state tests.)
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  • How will the state modify STAAR for students with special needs?
    • Testing accommodations will be made as needed according to each student's Individual Education Plan (IEP). As with current modified testing, the STAAR Modified test will cover the same content area for grades 3-8 and for nine of the 12 STAAR EOC tests, but will be modified in format and test design. Modified tests are not being developed for Algebra II, Chemistry or Physics, as those courses are not required on the Minimum High School Program (MHSP), and all students taking STAAR Modified tests will be on the MHSP. The STAAR Alternate tests will be very similar to the current TAKS-Alt tests. Students will continue to perform tasks linked to the appropriate grade-level TEKS. At the high school level, tests will move from grade-level tests to course-based tests. Beginning in spring 2012, only STAAR Alternate will be offered for all students who qualify to take that version of the test. TAKS-Alt will no longer be available. There will not be a stand-alone accommodated form of STAAR; however, the STAAR test for all students will look much like the TAKS-A test looked in format with a readable font and more white space surrounding the text.
  • How will the state modify STAAR for English Language Learners (ELL)?
    • ELL students will continue to take the Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System (TELPAS). There are plans to adjust items on TELPAS to align more closely with the rigor of the STAAR tests. A linguistically accommodated version of STAAR, named STAAR-L, will be available beginning in spring 2012. A Spanish version of STAAR will be published for grades 3-5 only. STAAR-M will not be available in Spanish.
  • Will STAAR EOC replace AP exams?
    • No. Students taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses will be required to take both STAAR EOC and AP exams. AP exams are national exams tied to Advanced Placement courses. STAAR is tied to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, and under new state law, passage is required for graduation.
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  • Can AP, IB, SAT, PSAT, the preliminary ACT, and Dual Credit scores be substituted for the STAAR EOC?
    • Not at the time of this publication. HB3 specifically calls for research studies to be conducted to evaluate the relationship between student performance on the STAAR EOC assessments and student performance on tests at least as rigorous as the STAAR EOC assessments. Once all data is collected (beginning in the spring of 2012) and the analyses are complete, substitute assessment policies could go into effect for some assessments in the 2013-14 school year.
  • How is STAAR different from TAKS?
    • Tests will contain a greater number of items that have a higher cognitive complexity level.
    • Items will be developed to more closely match the cognitive complexity level in the TEKS.
    • In reading, greater emphasis will be given to critical analysis than to literal understanding.
    • In writing, students will be required to write two essays rather than one.
    • In social studies, science, mathematics, process skills will be assessed in context, not in isolation.
    • In science and mathematics, the number of open-ended (griddable) items will increase.
    • The STAAR test will have a four-hour time limit. In the past, students taking TAKS had the entire school day to finish the test.
    • Grades 4 & 7 Writing and End-of-Course English I, English II, and English III will be administered over two days.
    • Students taking the 3rd grade STAAR test will use an answer document and not answer in the booklet as they did in the past with TAKS.
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  • What are the STAAR readiness and supporting standards?
    • Readiness standards have the following characteristics:
      • They are essential for success in the current grade or course.
      • They are important for preparedness for the next grade or course.
      • They support college and career readiness.
      • They necessitate in-depth instruction.
      • They address broad and deep ideas.
      • They will make up 70% of questions on the test.
    • Supporting standards have the following characteristics:
      • Although introduced in the current grade or course, they may be emphasized in a subsequent year.
      • Although reinforced in the current grade or course, they may be emphasized in a previous year.
      • They play a role in preparing students for the next grade or course but not a central role.
      • They address more narrowly defined ideas.
      • They will make up 30% of questions on the test.
  • What are the performance levels on STAAR?
    • As you may remember from TAKS, there were three performance levels: Not Met Standard, Met Standard, and Commended. On STAAR, there will also be three performance levels. (The scores which will create the performance levels have not been released by the state.) The performance levels will apply to the general STAAR assessments, STAAR Modified, STAAR Alternate and linguistically accommodated forms of STAAR (STAAR-L). They are as follows:

      Level I: Unsatisfactory Academic Performance
      Performance in this category indicates that students are inadequately prepared for the next grade or course. They do not demonstrate a sufficient understanding of the assessed knowledge and skills. Students in this category are unlikely to succeed in the next grade or course without significant, ongoing academic intervention.

      Level II: Satisfactory Academic Performance
      Performance in this category indicates that students are sufficiently prepared for the next grade or course. They generally demonstrate the ability to think critically and apply the assessed knowledge and skills in familiar contexts. Students in this category have a reasonable likelihood of success in the next grade or course but may need short-term, targeted academic intervention.

      Level III: Advanced Academic Performance*
      Performance in this category indicates that students are well prepared for the next grade or course. They demonstrate the ability to think critically and apply the assessed knowledge and skills in varied contexts, both familiar and unfamiliar. Students in this category have a high likelihood of success in the next grade or course with little or no academic intervention.
      *For Algebra II and English III, this level of performance also indicates students' postsecondary readiness.

      For the STAAR Alternate assessments, the performance labels are
      Level I: Unsatisfactory Academic Performance
      Level II: Satisfactory Academic Performance
      Level III: Accomplished Academic Performance

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  • Will the Student Success Initiative (SSI) go away now that the state has a new assessment?
    • No. Students in grades 5 & 8 will continue to be required to pass reading and math at the respective grade levels in order to move on to the next grade; however, in spring 2012 the 5th and 8th grade STAAR assessment will only be given once with no retest opportunities since passing standards for those tests won't be set until late fall of 2012. The district will use a combination of grade average and teacher recommendation to determine if a student should move on to the next grade in spring 2012. In spring 2013 and beyond, students will have three opportunities to pass STAAR in grades 5 & 8 and therefore will be required the pass the test to move on, which was the past requirement with TAKS for SSI grades and subjects.
  • Will there be field testing with the new STAAR assessment?
    • Yes, but the field test items will, for the most part, be imbedded in the actual test, cutting down on the need to administer additional tests; however, in spring 2012 only TEA anticipates a need to field test some higher level STAAR EOC subject tests. Grade 4 writing will require an abbreviated stand-alone field test every three years.
  • How will AISD CRMs reflect the new weighted (grouped) TEKS?
    • Readiness Standards and Supporting Standards will be designated in each CRM as follows:
      • Readiness standards = bold-underline
      • Supporting standards = bold-italics
  • Describe how lesson development will differ if not all TEKS are included on the test:
    • Lesson planning should still follow the scope and sequence set forth in the district Curriculum Road Maps(CRMs). The CRMs designate which TEKS should be focused on in each grading period. The CRMs also contain a wealth of rigorous instructional and assessment resources for instructional staff. For charts of TEKS which are eligible to be assessed on STAAR, please visit the "Assessed Curriculum" section of the TEA website at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/student.assessment/staar/

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  • What are the passing standards?
    • The timeline for standard - setting activities will differ for STAAR 3-8 and STAAR EOC because of the timing of available assessment data and different legislative requirements. For STAAR EOC, operational assessment data are available from the spring 2011 administrations. Therefore, performance standards will be set in February 2012, prior to the spring administrations. However, operational assessment data for STAAR 3-8 will not be available until after the spring 2012 administrations; for this reason performance standards will be set in October 2012.
    • Legislation requires a system of performance standards that are linked from grade to grade starting with postsecondary-readiness performance standards down through grade 3. Therefore, STAAR EOC performance standards must be established before standards for STAAR 3-8 can be set.
    • The scale scores on STAAR will not be the same as they have been for TAKS. Passing won’t be represented by a scale score of 2100.

  • How will accountability change?
    • The last TAKS-based accountability ratings will be issued in 2011. State accountability ratings will be suspended in 2012. The new state rating system will debut in 2013. Federal accountability (AYP) will be in place for spring 2012 and beyond.
  • Is STAAR aligned to our current TEKS?
    • Yes, in fact the STAAR test will be more aligned to the TEKS because STAAR test items are developed in order to more closely match the cognitive complexity in the TEKS.
  • Is STAAR timed?
    • All tests in the STAAR program will have a four-hour time limit. The test will start when students are directed to turn to the first question. TEA will review the four-hour time limit after the first STAAR administration in spring 2012 to determine if the policy needs to be reconsidered or adjusted for specific grades, subjects, or courses.

      Accommodations for extra time or an extra day will be available for students who meet eligibility criteria for their use.

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  • What objectives will STAAR focus on?
  • What will the test look like?
  • Will there be a Dyslexia Bundle?
    • Two of the three bundled accommodations will be available for students with dyslexia and other reading disabilities on the STAAR reading assessments in grades 3 through high school - the oral reading of item stems/answer options only and extended testing time, if needed. These accommodations do not need to be offered as a bundle; the needs of the student should be considered when determining which accommodations to use. A proper-nouns list like the one used in the TAKS assessments will no longer be provided. Students must be identified as dyslexic by their 504 or ARD committee in order to qualify for this accommodation.
  • Will the test be available in Spanish?
    • As with TAKS, Spanish versions of STAAR will be available for eligible ELLs in grades 3-5 in each grade and subject assessed by the English versions. Additionally, linguistically accommodated versions of STAAR called STAAR L will be available for eligible ELLs in grades 3-8 and high school, including L versions of the STAAR grades 3-8 and EOC assessments in mathematics, science, and social studies. STAAR L reading, writing, and English I-III assessments will not be developed. ELLs in grade 6 and above will be given access to dictionaries when taking STAAR reading, writing, and English I-III tests. ELLs in grades 3-5 may be eligible to use dictionaries as a linguistic accommodation when taking reading and writing tests. STAAR L versions will be administered on the same schedule as STAAR assessments. Both Spanish STAAR and STAAR L are designed to be comparable to STAAR in content, rigor, and academic achievement standards. Following implementation of the STAAR program, the Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System (TELPAS) will be reviewed and adjusted as needed to maintain an appropriate relationship between academic language proficiency as defined by TELPAS and academic achievement as defined by STAAR.
  • Am I able to see and give my students STAAR practice assessments?
    • TEA has stated that they will release sample test items sometime in September 2011.The first full release of spring test forms of STAAR will occur in summer 2014. As of the date of the publication of the FAQ, select test questions have not been released.

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  • What writing prompts will be on the writing tests?
    1. 4th grade-2 essays. One personal narrative and one expository. The expository prompt at all grade levels will include a scaffolded stimulus - read, think, write.
    2. 7th grade-3 essays total. One personal narrative with extension, one expository and one field test prompt will be included. The field test prompt will either be personal narrative with extension or expository. Personal narrative with extension is defined by TEA as a personal narrative that has a clearly defined focus and communicates the importance of or reasons for actions and/or consequences (TEKS-16A). In other words, why the experience was important. Most personal narrative prompts include a visual. The expository prompt at all grade levels will include a scaffolded stimulus - read, think, write.
    3. 9th grade-3 essays total. One literary, one expository and one field test prompt will be included. The field test prompt will either be literary or expository. The literary essay is a "story" type essay. The expository prompt at all grade levels will include a scaffolded stimulus – read, think, write.
    4. 10th grade-3 essays total. One expository, one persuasive and field test prompt will be included. The field test prompt will either be expository or persuasive. The expository prompt at all grade levels will include a scaffolded stimulus - read, think, write.
    5. 11th grade exit level-3 essays total. One persuasive, one analytical and one field test prompt will be included. The field test will either be persuasive or analytical.
  • Why is the writing changing so drastically?
    • TEA has stated that the STAAR test will increase in rigor over TAKS by including more genres of writing. In the past, all students at all grade levels wrote a personal narrative essay. The change and progression in genre of the writing prompts on STAAR allows for students to be assessed in multiple forms of writing which more closely match writing that the student will engage in his or her post-secondary education and/or employment.
  • In what ways is the rigor increasing on STAAR?
    • Assessments will increase in length at most grades and subjects.

      Overall test difficulty will be increased by including more rigorous items.

      The rigor of items will be increased by assessing skills at a greater depth and level of cognitive complexity. In this way, the tests will be better able to measure the growth of higher-achieving students.

      In science and mathematics, the number of open-ended (griddable) items on most tests will increase to allow students more opportunity to derive an answer independently.

      Students will be required to respond to two writing tasks (including personal narrative, literary, expository, persuasive, and analytic) rather than one task.

      Performance standards will be set using empirical data gathered from studies that link performance year to year from grades 3-8 to high school and from specific courses to college and career readiness.

      Empirical studies will be conducted comparing students' performance on the new assessments with nationally norm-referenced assessments.

      Performance standards will be reviewed at least once every three years and, if necessary, adjusted to ensure that the assessments maintain a high level of rigor.

      Performance standards will be set so that they require a higher level of student performance than is required on the current TAKS assessments.

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  • At the question level, how does the test differ from TAKS?
    • The rigor of individual questions will be increased by assessing skills at a greater depth and level of cognitive complexity. In science and mathematics, the number of open-ended (griddable) items on most tests will increase to allow students more opportunity to derive an answer independently. Students will be required to respond to two writing tasks (including personal narrative, literary, expository, persuasive, and analytic) rather than one task. The reading test questions will focus more on critical analysis rather than literal understanding.
  • How do we prepare students for the changes?
    • Research the STAAR resources at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/student.assessment/staar/ and at Region XIII http://www5.esc13.net/staar/
    • Ensure that teachers, parents and students know about the changes in the assessment system.
    • Follow the district Curriculum Road Maps which have been revised with STAAR standards.
    • Incorporate multi-genre writing into all content areas.
    • Ensure questioning strategies on both formative and summative assessments are higher level.
    • Focus on analysis and critical thinking rather than literal understanding.
  • How do we develop teacher confidence in addressing STAAR standards with the appropriate rigor?
    • Ensure that teachers know where to find resources from Region XIII and TEA:
      http://www5.esc13.net/staar/ and http://www.tea.state.tx.us/student.assessment/staar/
      Ensure that teachers have time to plan and collaborate regarding instruction.
      Practice "unpacking the TEKS" - looking at the verb, nouns and context to ensure classroom assessments are at the same rigor.
      Ensure teachers know how to access and disaggregate data as well as respond to struggling students.
  • Will there be a conversion chart for converting EOC scale scores into grades?

    • There are still no plans to provide a specific score conversion chart for use in converting EOC scale scores into grades. There are too many district variations in grading scales for TEA to do this.

  • How does the time limit affect those taking on-line testing or those students who need extended time?

    • For those doing on-line testing, the machines will not time out after a four-hour testing session. Test administrators will need to note the start time (when the test administrator says, “You are ready to begin.”) For testers who need the accommodation of extended time, the extended time runs to the end of the regular school day. There will be variations across campuses. Extended time is a distinct accommodation that likely would require specific Agency approval.

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  • When will TEA provide “bridge” results?

    • Districts will see “bridge results” in early summer 2012 for grades 3-8. This means that they will know what performance on STAAR was like, relative to the old TAKS standard.

  • Will there be a flexible testing window?

    • TEA is concerned about the flexible testing window in place for spring 2012. It is not certain whether the flexibility will continue. It depends on how test security goes.

  • Will there be the same number of answer choices for each item on STAAR?
    • Yes, there will be four answer choices, A-D.  In addition, math will have extra griddable items.
  • Are there STAAR questions available for review now?
    • Yes, they are available on TEA's website. TEA states:
      • "Released test questions for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR™) tests are now posted for review.  The questions included in this release represent selected Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) student expectations for each reporting category on all STAAR 3-8 and end-of-course general assessments.  These questions are samples only.  They are not necessarily representative of the breadth or depth of STAAR assessments because they are examples of only a small portion of the TEKS eligible for assessment.  For this reason they should not be used as STAAR test forms or benchmarks.  The purpose of this release is purely informational. It is intended to illustrate how STAAR might assess particular TEKS student expectations and to provide educators, parents, and other stakeholders with examples of the level of student performance that STAAR questions require. TEA will also post released questions for STAAR Spanish and STAAR Modified by early November."
      • Follow the weblink below to find the released sample questions. 

        http://www.tea.state.tx.us/student.assessment/staar/

  • How do I help staff understand and integrate readiness and supporting standards into instruction?
    • The Curriculum Road Maps have been re-written with both readiness and supporting standards integrated into the instructional resources. The instructional resources in the CRMs are aligned to the standards.

      Please be aware that:

      • Readiness standards encompass 30-40% of the eligible TEKS but will make up 60-65% of the assessment.
      • Supporting standards encompass 60-70% of the eligible TEKS but will make up 35-40% of the assessment.
    • TEA will not release exactly which standards will be on the STAAR assessments. Therefore teachers should follow the pacing as outlined in the CRMs. Teachers should not differentiate between supporting and readiness standards when teaching. Students should be taught all standards as outlined in the CRMs.

    • To view the test blueprints which outline readiness and supporting standards on STAAR, visit the TEA website at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/student.assessment/staar/

    • In addition, Lead4Ward has many activities for administrators to use with their staff when reviewing STAAR - http://lead4ward.com/assessment-accountability/staarfieldguide/section-3/

    • Region XIII has many STAAR resources also - http://www5.esc13.net/staar/

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  • What does a timeline look like for teachers to get students ready for STAAR?
    • The Curriculum Road Maps currently outline pacing for teaching the standards to be assessed on STAAR.

  • What resources will the district provide?
    • The district curriculum office is providing newly updated CRMs and benchmarks to assess student readiness. In addition, the February District Wide Professional Development Day will include a focus on STAAR.

  • Are the curriculum writers qualified and trained to align Curriculum Road Maps to STAAR?
    • Every curriculum supervisor and specialist has attended STAAR trainings, TEA updates and forums. The curriculum department is committed to staying abreast of the most recent information as it is released by TEA. The curriculum writers are highly qualified to ensure that the district assessments and curriculum are aligned to STAAR.

  • How will district created benchmarks and Short Cycle Assessments align with STAAR?
    • The Curriculum and Assessment Divisions follow a strict protocol for writing, reviewing and aligning assessment items to the TEKS. TEA has stated that STAAR items will be closely aligned to the rigor of TEKS. Every assessment item is reviewed for alignment both in rigor and content.

  • How will we know that our Short Cycle Assessments reflect STAAR?
    • The Curriculum and Assessment Divisions follow a strict protocol for writing, reviewing and aligning assessment items to the TEKS. TEA has stated that STAAR items will be closely aligned to the rigor of TEKS. The assessment items on AISD district assessments are reviewed for alignment both in rigor and content.

  • What are the implications for the district if we do not make AYP?

  • What are process standards?

    • Process standards are:
      • Underlying processes and Mathematical Tools
      • Scientific Investigation and Reasoning Skills
      • Social Studies Skills
    • Note that these standards only apply to math, science and social studies.

      To find out exactly which standards are process standards, please access the TEA STAAR resources page at:  http://www.tea.state.tx.us/student.assessment/staar/, then click on the “Assessed Curriculum” link for the content area you wish to view. On the last page is a description and listing of the process skills.

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