What is the best way to measure a child’s learning? Parents, educators and school administrators everywhere ask and debate this question. Some stand firmly against standardized testing; others support it. Although standardized test scores are only one measure of student achievement, the fact remains that they have become very important in assessing student learning.
In 2012, State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) replaced the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) exam. The STAAR tests measure the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills curriculum standards that had also been required with TAKS. However, STAAR is more rigorous than previous standardized tests used by Texas schools because it emphasizes what the state calls “readiness standards,” or knowledge and skills necessary for college and career. The STAAR tests knowledge of course content as well as problem-solving skills.
High school students are given five end-of-course (EOC) assessments in algebra I, biology, English I and II and U.S. history. As of spring 2016, districts may administer optional tests in algebra II and English III. Students must pass — meet or exceed Level II: Satisfactory Academic Performance — the five STAAR EOC assessments to earn a high school diploma from a Texas public or charter school. Students are given three testing opportunities each year. The five EOC assessments required for graduation are administrated at the end of the first semester, at the end of the second semester and in the summer. Once a student passes an EOC assessment, the student has fulfilled that part of the graduation requirement and cannot retest.
STAAR has been fine-tuned each year since it was first implemented. In 2013, a new accountability rating system debuted for the 2014-2015 school year. Each campus was identified as one of two ratings: met standard or improvement required. Once a school met the standard rating, it could earn up to seven distinctions. This accountability rating was still in effect for the 2016-2017 school year, but it will be replaced in the 2017-2018 school year.
The passing of House Bill 2804 in 2015 passed a new rating system. This new system includes five domains of indicators to evaluate districts and campuses regarding three goals: preparing students for postsecondary readiness, reducing achievement gaps, and informing parents and the community about district and campus performance. Each campus and district will be assigned a rating, A-F, based on its performance in each of the five domains, which are then combined to create an overall performance rating.
This spring Waco ISD will participate in a pilot program to develop a local academic accountability system under the guidance of the Texas Education Agency. Potential indicators to be assessed could include areas such as extracurricular activities, growth patterns, wellness and fitness activities, 21st-century learning, and career and technology education. Waco ISD was one of 20 school districts in the state chosen to be a part of the pilot program. Both Waco High School and University High School will receive ratings based on the new statewide accountability system in the 2017-2018 school year in conjunction with the local accountability rating.
On the next two pages, you will find a statistical snapshot of 19 public high schools in McLennan County for the 2016-2017 school year. It covers everything from test scores to demographics. To compare statistics on a broader scale, we’ve also included the statistics for the state average of Texas public high schools. This information is based on the 2016-2017 academic performance reports released in December. While these statistics serve as an indicator of a school’s performance, they don’t reveal everything within a particular classroom. A visit to the school is necessary to understand the complete learning environment. You can learn more about the STAAR tests, accountability ratings and the changes in the system as well as performance reports for each campus by visiting the Texas Education Agency’s website at tea.texas.gov.
Click HERE to view the results.