During the month of April, Carroll students will be among thousands of students from across the state who will tackle the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness—or STAAR test. STAAR replaced the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test in 2011-2012. The STAAR assessment includes more questions that require critical thinking, open-ended responses, and generally a higher level of rigor across the four core content areas. STAAR testing will take place this spring in grades 3-10. All of these grades will take reading and mathematics assessments with additional assessments being given in certain grades (writing – grades 4, 7, 9, and 10; science – grades 5, 8, 9, and 10; social studies – grades 8, 9, and 10). Beginning next school year, students in grade 11 will also be assessed on STAAR tests.
Although STAAR is a standardized assessment, using mainly multiple-choice questions, Carroll teachers and students are approaching preparation through in-depth conversations and a review of all aspects of the curriculum. Students have spent time recently honing the knowledge/skills required in their grades as well as learning a few test-taking strategies that will be helpful throughout their school careers as they take future SAT, ACT, AP and other advanced assessments.
Preparation for the assessment typically takes place during the school day, but dedicated Carroll teachers and students often go above and beyond as well. Before and after school tutorials have been ongoing at all CISD campuses to help students ensure mastery of any weak skills in core subjects. Additionally, some students in the district’s middle and high school have devoted time on the weekend to preparation.
For example, on a Saturday in March, more than 110 Carroll High School students voluntarily filled the halls of the English department for STAAR Camp. CHS English Department Chair Karen Otto said the response from students was overwhelming.“We originally thought we would only have 25 to 50 students total,” Otto said.
In addition to STAAR camp, The Freshman Expository Writing Gallery Walk took place during English class in the lecture hall at CHS. All freshman ELA classes rotated through a series of writing stations that dealt with revising and editing, work with the rubric and scoring of sample essays, pre-writing strategies, thesis statement development, writing conclusions, and using transitions effectively.
CHS English teacher, Lindsey Jacobson, said, “As a teacher, you never really know what goes on in another teacher’s room, so to hear all of the students, even within the various course levels, using a common academic vocabulary is a testament that our students are well prepared.”
Students in other grades and subjects are participating in STAAR preparation as well. Fifth grade students at DIS and EIS will be participating in engaging review stations that include a hands-on component as well as paper/pencil mini-assessments based on their learning needs. Teachers will use data collected during the school year to assign tasks to prepare students specifically in areas of need. Additionally, throughout the school year, all core classes have used curriculum based assessments (CBAs) to identify objectives that students have not mastered. Teachers use this data to help guide their instruction and determine key areas for review. Based on this information, science and mathematics students at CHS are receiving online tutorials to meet their individual needs prior to the science and mathematics end-of-course (EOC) assessments in May.
Currently, the Texas legislature is debating the details of what role STAAR assessments will play in students’ graduation requirements, GPAs, and other high-stakes matters. One thing in CISD is certain, regardless of the outcome of the debate in Austin, students have worked diligently this year in preparation for success.
For a complete, detailed list of the Carroll ISD’s Assessment Calendar, click here.