The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, is the standardized test mandated for students in grades 3-12 in the public schools of Texas. Every state has a test like this; if you grew up in Texas, you may remember TAKS, which STAAR replaced in 2012. STAAR results are used by district and state administrators to compare schools and judge whether they meet benchmarks for efficacy. Individual students’ scores, which track progress over the years, are a standard component of HISD magnet applications.
What does STAAR Test?
Broadly speaking, STAAR tests students’ mastery of grade-level material in core subjects. The tests are developed by Pearson according to the curriculum and testing guidelines set by the State of Texas. The test for grades 3-5 has Reading, Mathematics, Writing, and Science subject area components. The test for grades 6-8 covers all of the same areas plus Social Studies. For grades 9-12, STAAR provides mastery tests for specific subjects: Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Biology, Chemistry, English I Reading, English I Writing, English II Reading, English II Writing, World Geography, and World History.
What do the Numbers Mean?
In the Houston School Survey’s profiles of HISD magnet schools, you will see STAAR scores listed as percentages, and in HISD’s school profiles, you will see STAAR scores presented as numbers. What do these figures mean? At the schoolwide level, the reported STAAR score represents the percentage of tested students whose score met the minimum qualifications for “Satisfactory Academic Performance.” The cutoff for this category varies by grade level and subject; the Texas Education Agency provides tables detailing the benchmarks for each subject and grade.
What do STaar scores tell me about a school?
When you’re looking at public schools profiled by the Houston School Survey, STAAR scores are a quick way to compare programs that seem equal in other respects. The things that make a school exemplary - teachers who really care, coursework that challenges every student - are hard to get at from an outsider perspective. While the impact of these factors could never accurately be quantified, STAAR scores can at least hint at their presence or absence. If two institutions have similar programs, but one has substantially higher STAAR scores, the difference may well lie in those hard-to-pin-down characteristics that make a school truly excellent.
STAAR scores are most useful, however, when there is little other information available. If you’re looking at public schools beyond the ones profiled by the Houston School Survey, STAAR scores are of critical importance, because they can help you identify excellent schools and eliminate subpar ones from consideration. If you’re going this route, you should also look at the Children at Risk rankings, which incorporate STAAR scores but also take account of retention rates, class size, and other important factors.
What specific metrics are reflected in the HSS profiles?
If you’re looking at HISD’s profile data for individual schools, you may be wondering which specific line in the HISD write-up corresponds to the data presented in the Houston School Survey profile. To maximize comparability, we have elected to present the scores for specific grade levels and subjects rather than taking averages for each school.
For HISD elementary schools, the STAAR scores in our profiles represent the Reading and Mathematics scores, respectively, at the fifth grade level.
For HISD middle schools, the STAAR scores in our profiles represent the Reading and Mathematics scores, respectively, at the eighth grade level.
For HISD high schools, the STAAR scores in our profiles represent the English II Reading and Algebra II scores, respectively.
For HISD combined schools, the method for the highest applicable grade level was used.
Article last updated September 9, 2014.