Tests are part of school life and it’s no different here in Texas.  According to the Texas Education Agency Texas has had statewide assessments program in place for more than 25 years.

Over time changes to state and federal statutes and to the state-mandated curriculum – the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) – have naturally resulted in changes and expansion to the assessment program.

Today student educational skills are assessed via state tests for general education special education and bilingual/English as a Second Language programs to help them reach their full academic potential. The 2011-2012 school year marks a big change in Texas public school educational testing with the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR™) test replacing the long-standing Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test.

The STAAR program which began in spring 2012 assesses the same subjects and grades that TAKS currently assesses for grades 3-8. The major change occurs in high school when students entering ninth grade start taking end-of-course (EOC) assessments including Algebra I Geometry Algebra II Biology Chemistry Physics English I English II English III World Geography World History and U.S. history.

According to information from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) the new STAAR program is designed to further support the overall Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) curriculum standards. It’s also more rigorous than previous state tests with more test questions at most grade levels.

The new STAAR assessments test on material students have studied that year; the TAKS high-school level tested content studied over multiple years – another difference between the two tests. The STAAR tests also have a time limit; previous state testing standards didn’t have time constraints. Unless students are eligible for an accommodation they will have four hours to complete each STAAR assessment.

Accommodations for eligible students under the new testing curriculum include the STAAR Modified which covers the same content as the general STAAR but uses a modified format and test design (such as fewer answer choices and simpler sentence structure and vocabulary) and the STAAR Alternate which is available for students with significant cognitive disabilities.

Students enrolled at private schools don’t take the STAAR test. In most cases private schools set their own admission and graduation requirements; check with the admissions office at each school for more information on specific requirements.

For more information about educational testing in Texas contact the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) Student Assessment Division at 512-463-9536 or visit www.tea.state.tx.us.