A local state representative is calling for fundamental reform of the state’s standardized testing system after the “litany of errors” he claims plagued the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) in 2016.
State Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) called for reform in a press release Monday, adding “flawed testing practice” threatens the state’s “ability to fulfill our education system’s goals – and our children’s futures.”
Isaac believes school districts should be able to choose from national standardized tests as the state fixes the STAAR test.
“The litany of errors being uncovered about STAAR is simply a disservice to our students, hard-working teachers, and families,” Isaac said in a statement. “To that end, I propose that schools be given the freedom to choose from a variety of nationally normed standardized tests, not have their hands tied while the State of Texas tries to iron out STAAR’s many kinks.”
When STAAR was last administered in May, issues regarding test administration, along with lost or late testing materials, glitches that erased test results, and mishandling of students’ private information have come to light, according to a press release.
In March, numerous school districts across the state reported issues with the online STAAR test, causing test answers to be lost.
According to a report by the Texas Tribune, the glitch affected more than 14,000 tests.
In June, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) said it wouldn’t hold fifth and eighth grade students who failed the STAAR exam back a grade, or force them to retest, due to issues with New Jersey-based test vendor Education Testing Services (ETJ), according to the Tribune.
According to the release, STAAR also failed to meet the provisions of House Bill 743, which Isaac jointly authored.
HB 743 requires that 85 percent of students be able to complete the exams within two or three hours, depending on grade.
The TEA last week announced ETS has been fined more than $20 million for these errors, possibly the largest such fine in Texas history.
“I’m pleased that the Texas Education Agency has taken significant steps to improve STAAR, but it’s clear there is still more work to be done,” Isaac said. “School districts should not be hampered by an inefficient and ineffective system. Adding a dose of free-market philosophy to education by allowing a variety of standardized test options can only drive down costs and improve quality.”
Dripping Springs ISD Superintendent Dr. Bruce Gearing said in an emailed response the district has always advocated for “local control in education” and believes Isaac’s call for reform would be a “positive step to consider other mechanisms for assessment.
“The freedom to make local decisions also aligns with our status as a District of Innovation and our district goals of delivering personalized learning to students,” Gearing said.
He added that Isaac listens “carefully to the challenges that educators and school districts face.”
“We appreciate Rep. Isaac’s interest in public education, and look forward to working together in the future to address some of these changes,” Gearing said.