Texas thinks it can increase college participation by demanding better performance in public schools. That's why the TAKS test
was thrown out for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or the STAAR exam. Dallas Dance is the chief school officer with the HISD. He says STAAR is more rigorous than the TAKS testing it replaced.
"It's really gonna build on grade level standards that kids are expected to master, so as opposed to being able to look at just what a kid needs to know in 3rd grade, we don't do that. We're looking at what kids have mastered in 3rd grade, but also what they should have learned in 2nd, and also what we're expected to teach them in 4th grade."
More jobs in this state and across the U.S. require that students excel in high school and go on to get a college degree, or
something equivalent. Dance says that puts school districts in Texas under the microscope.
"Because if you're expected to prepare students for college or for a career choice, you want to make sure they've mastered grade levels throughout the years, as opposed to focusing on just one grade level. The main difference will be though, at high school. Students who are in grades 9 through 12, they're gonna have to pass end of course exams now in order to graduate."
Course exams will be subject and grade specific: English/Language Arts, Math, Science and History.
"You're also gonna have it in writing, which we tested every level now. You test them in elementary school, you test them in middle and you test them in high. The difference is of course, now in high school, you would have to pass that writing end of course, in order to graduate."
Some parents are worried about the impact the new test will have on their students' grades. 9th, 8th and some 7th graders
will be taking these exams for the first time, and under STAAR, their performance will determine 15-percent of their final course grade. Woodlands Representative Rob Eissler, who heads the House Education Committee, says he's hoping the TEA will give students one more year before it affects their grades.
"Because there's a transition period for the accountability system, because of the new testing. The thinking is that that portion, or the 15 percent accounting, would also be in the same transition. So that the request is a waiver of the 15 percent."
Meanwhile, HISD is holding a series of sessions about the STAAR test. Once again, the district's Dallas Dance:
"HISD's way of looking at it, would be different from Spring Branch, or from Alief or from Cy-Fair. There's no consistent way to do it because no districts are having to make that choice on their own, so I think parents are just wanting to know more and more information about how is this gonna look different for my child and then subsequently, what can I do in order to help?"