STAAR in the making: Elementary, Secondary schools prepare for state-mandated tests

Trevor Nichols, staff writer

Starting this year, End-of-Course exams will be implemented to replace the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (T.A.K.S.) test for freshmen. These EOC exams are also being field-tested in higher grade levels. Supporters hope that previous objections to the TAKS test, such as the tests’ inaccurate measurement of skills, will be addressed in these new tests.

“I think that the End-of-Course tests are a good thing,” freshman Gaiochau Nguyen said. “It just tests you over what you’ve learned over the last year instead of being over several years’ worth of material.”

According to a statement put out by the Texas Educational Agency, the EOC will test the subjects of Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, English I, English II, English III, World Geography, World History, and U.S. History.

“Standardized tests should go beyond the four core subjects,” junior Amman Islam said. “They [the four core subjects] aren’t the only areas that are used in life.”

There are several notable differences between the TAKS and the EOC examinations. For example, the EOC encompasses a specific class rather than a grade level of students.

One common complaint about the TAKS test is the allegation that it only measures one level of classes, regardless of the grade level that they were in. For example, a sophomore in Geometry would take the same math TAKS examination as a sophomore in Algebra II. The EOC addresses this problem in the new structure of the exams.

Another objection to the TAKS test is that it only measures the minimum requirement for passing a test, so is not an accurate measurement of skills.

“I don’t think it matters if it’s the TAKS or the EOC tests,” junior Trey Vega said. “If we have tests over 8th grade level and lower material to test 10th graders, we’re not really helping anyone.”

Furthermore, students in 3rd through 8th grade will be taking the new STAAR tests. Much like the former TAKS tests, the STAAR will be a comprehensive test encompassing the same areas as the TAKS did.

These tests incite concern over whether schools should implement standardized tests in the first place.

“Standardized tests are just logic-based,” Junior Jenna Parker said. “It’s less of what you know and more of how you do the problems.”

Some have upheld the value of the skills that cannot be tested for, like innovation and believe creativity, among other qualities, have been damaged by standardized testing.

The new focus on individual classes will change the current curriculum for in-class standardized test reviews.

“I think it makes more sense than TAKS,” said AP English Language teacher Ann Marquez. “If a student doesn’t pass by the end of the course, then we should take another look at whether they’re up to an adequate level.”