By Chris McGuinness
Killeen Daily Herald
State education officials released performance standards for Texas' new assessment test this week, giving local school districts and their students a better idea of what kind of scores they will need to pass or excel on the exams.
The Texas Education Agency announcement comes as students across the state have begun taking the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness tests.
Most of the standards - which are the minimum scores needed for high school students to pass the 12 end-of-course exams - will be phased in over a four-year period though 2016, with the scores required to satisfactorily pass the exams gradually increasing.
In a statement, the agency and education commissioner Robert Scott said the phases would give districts, staff and students time to adjust to the new, more rigorous standards of the STAAR test.
"We have found that a gradual increase in standards sets realistic but challenging expectations for our students and results in improved academic performance," said Scott.
For example, a student taking the STAAR end-of-course exam in English I in 2012 through 2013 will need to score at least 1,875 to pass. In 2014 through 2015, or phase two, a student taking the same test will need to score 1,950 to pass. When the standards are fully phased in for the 2016 school year, students will need to score at least 2,000 to pass.
Teresa Daugherty, director of academic assessment for the Killeen Independent School District, said phasing in the standards is a good idea.
"It will give (districts) time to learn and become more familiar with the new expectations, adjust our instruction and practices, and train staff," she said. "Phasing in the standards helps protect students from the disadvantage of being the first to experience such significant changes with the least amount of time for all (staff and students) to adjust."
The agency also released performance categories into which scores on individual and cumulative exams can fall.
In the three-tiered academic performance system, scores are classified as unsatisfactory, satisfactory and advanced.
Unsatisfactory is considered "failing" said Suzanne Marchman, a spokesperson for the Texas Education Agency. Students who meet at least the minimum standards will get the "satisfactory" achievement level.
Students whose scores "go above and beyond," get the advanced designation, said Marchman, a mark needed for them to qualify for the state's distinguished achievement program's high school diploma.
Those degrees will begin to be awarded with the class of 2015.
Both the testing standards and student performance tiers will be phased in as they were with the STAAR exam's predecessor, the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.
The agency expects to have the first STAAR end-of-course exam results by June.
Daugherty said one disadvantage to the timing is that high school students will be out of school for summer when the results come in.
"So, they need to watch their mail diligently for their results and information about retaking STAAR EOC assessments," said Daugherty.
Standards for grades three through eight will be released in the fall.
Contact Chris McGuinness at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.
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For more information about the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness tests, go to www.tea.state.tx.us.