While area school test scores seemed to pick up steam last year, stakes will continue to rise in this year’s State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness as some students will need to answer more questions correctly to pass.

The Texas Education Agency, the state branch of the government responsible for regulating public schools, is specifically upping the ante for the kindergarten through eighth-grade STAAR math test.

As a result, Killeen Independent School District’s elementary and middle-schoolers won’t have to worry about passing their STAAR math tests this year. At a meeting earlier this month, Killeen school board members suspended the district’s former requirement for them to pass the math portion of the STAAR test to advance to the next grade level.

Local school officials said they’ve suspended the requirement before when TEA changed the passing standards and the change was relatively routine.

Problems associated with the STAAR’s changing standards include the lack of retests and the availability of raw data only.

In May, Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams waived the state law stating fifth and eighth graders must pass the math portion of the test to advance to the next grade level, as well.

“We want to give students a year and give them a chance to get the changes under their belt,” said Lauren Callahan, a spokesperson for TEA, explaining the change.

Each grade level’s increasing standards are laid out on Projectsharetexas.org’s website, she said. For example, fifth-graders now will be required to solve problems involving decimals to the hundredth place, demonstrate their knowledge of the order of operations, demonstrate personal finance literacy with problems involving sales and property tax, show some algebraic reasoning and demonstrate their data analysis abilities, among others.

“(The tests are) not the only tool we use to measure student progress,” said Diana Miller, Killeen ISD’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. “We have lots of different ways to look and see at a student on whether or not they’ll be promoted.”

Miller said they also have previous test scores and classroom grades, among other indicators, to see if a child is struggling.

The TEA also nixed the modified STAAR test, which was an alternative assessment test meant mainly for higher function special education students and students with other disabilities, Callahan said.

Fifth- and eighth-grade Killeen ISD students still are required to pass the STAAR reading tests to move on to the next grade level.

Contact Courtney Griffin at cgriffin@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7559

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