Besides all of the fun and exciting extra-curricular events that we have enjoyed this past semester we are also busily preparing for the state assessments (TAKS) which will begin in March 2011. The writing tests will be given first followed a few weeks later by the remaining subject-area exams.
RISD teachers and administrators are working to individually prepare each child for the assessments that await them this spring. This will be the final year that most students will take the TAKS tests as the state is rolling out a new assessment program for next year called the “State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness” (STAAR).
The STAAR assessments are going to be very different from the TAKS assessments in both coverage and complexity. All students in grades 3 through 9 will take the new STAAR tests starting next school year. Students in grades 10 and 11 next year will finish high school under the old TAKS system.
Like the TAKS, STAAR tests in grades 3 through 8 will cover the four core curriculum components – mathematics, reading and writing, science and social studies. Students in high school will now take “end of course exams” covering material specifically taught in a course that school year.
This is different from the old TAKS system which required some students to test over material that was from courses taken as long ago as four years.
The STAAR will also ask different sorts of questions than the TAKS. STAAR questions will focus on readiness standards; that is, they will measure a child’s preparedness for future success in a subsequent grade level or course and ultimately for college and career choices.
These tests will require that students be able to apply critical analysis and thought processes to a given problem or reading passage and use those higher-level thought processes to determine the appropriate answer for the question at hand. Though literal understanding and computation skills will be tested, they will be incorporated into a larger scenario wherein a child will be expected to use those computation skills and critical analysis skills to solve a problem, draw accurate conclusions and analyze and compare given information.
The greatest difference between the TAKS tests and the new STAAR assessments will be the depth of complexity of the tests. The state is increasing the rigor of all the tests and all Texas students will be expected to achieve a higher score to pass the exams than on the TAKS tests.
As RISD prepares for this year’s final round of TAKS testing, please know that we are also focusing our vision on what is coming next year. The faculty and administration of RISD is committed to equipping all our children with the skills and processes necessary for success on the STAAR assessments.
Though not nearly as exciting as the fun extra-curricular events we enjoy during the school year, these assessments are required by the state and we will meet these challenges and changes with a sincere determination to give our very best effort.