The old "Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills" test or TAKS, certainly had its share of critics. But things aren't about to get any easier for students taking the new STAAR test. Orlando Riddick is HISD's Chief High School Officer.
"It is different. It's very much different than TAKS. The TAKS is generated on the 8thgrade level, so if you are in Algebra 2 you had to go back and refresh what were the things that you learned in 8th grade. If you were in Geometry, you had to go back and refresh the things you learned in Algebra in 8th grade, and the same thing for Algebra 2."
But many say that test wasn't doing a good job of preparing Texas students for college. STAAR will test students on their own grade level. This is HISD's Angela Borzon.
"The level of rigor for TAKS was not positioning Texas students to be college- and career-ready. Not to the extent that STAAR promises to be. Our teachers have been receiving training in lots of different formats, but throughout the summer and throughout the school year, and principals as well. Principals and school leaders have received a lot of training in curriculum and increasing rigor."
STAAR will eventually account for up to 15 percent of a student's grade. It will also be a factor in teacher evaluations. None of that will happen this year as everyone gets a little time to work out the kinks.
Gayle Fallon, President of the Houston Federation of Teachers, is glad to hear this year's scores won't count, because she doesn't believe teachers or anyone really knows what's on the test.
"Let's say History of the Western World. Okay, if the test is heavily on European History and we spent a significant time doing all aspects of the world, we may not have picked up some of the detail they're going to have on the test. And that's a problem, although that gets into a whole problem with the concept of testing."
Not everyone is taking STAAR, current high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors will continue taking the TAKS test. It will be phased out next school year.