Houston ISD makes grade-level changes for use of STAAR test scores

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Houston ISD's school board has suspended its use of STAAR test scores in deciding whether some students will be held back, or promoted to the next grade.

"This is a big deal," said parent Carolyn Melgar.

The policy change applies to students in third, fourth, sixth and seventh grades. The state requires that the results count in fifth and eight grades.

HISD was the largest school district in Texas to require the same standards applied to the additional grade levels.

"There are kids who are 8, 9 and 10 years old having anxiety attacks about this test," Melgar said.

Her child was one of them.

"When he told me he didn't want to go to the third grade, because there was some kind of big test, I knew there was a problem," she said. She took him out of HISD and enrolled him in private school.

The school board has heard those concerns, as well as complaints from educators who said they had to teach to the test for some time.

Board president Wanda Adams said the test will still be given, but it will be used to gauge where a student is in terms of learning.

"What do we need to look at for this student to make sure we're hitting on necessary targets so the student can pass," she said.

That will be accomplished through 'interventions' based on the test scores and overall grades. In the end, Adams said the change, " will allow our teachers to teach and provide interventions in math and reading."

Concerns over classrooms focusing on curriculum, to pass the STAAR test and stress on both students and teachers, created a movement of parents who opted their children out of the test. Instead, those students had to go before a committee to advance to the next grade.

One school board member said as a practical matter, most students are promoted to the next grade.

The move came not long after a poet, whose work was included in a STAAR test question, went to the Huffington Post.

"I can't understand this Texas test question," Sarah Holbrook wrote.

It asked about the writer's intention.

"I couldn't even answer it," she said.

Two school board members voted against the change, out of concerns there needs to be some plan to take its place, but not out of support for the STAAR test.

A bill has already been filed in the Texas Legislature asking for the STAAR test to be replaced.
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