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Letter from Superintendent Scott Muri

Dear SBISD Families and Community Members,

Recent New York Times and Texas Monthly articles, as well as subsequent stories by other media outlets, have brought to light what many educators have long suspected – that reading portions of the state’s STAAR exam are misaligned to grade level, resulting in scores that are inaccurate.

In other words, Texas is testing students with reading passages that researchers claim are one to three grade levels higher than the on-grade level text specified by the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), standards on which the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) is based, to the detriment of students and their schools.

Since Tuesday, members of the Texas House have been hearing testimony as they investigate the limitations and proper use of student assessments and testing.

Here are important facts:

  • STAAR misalignment negatively impacts Texas students and schools.
  • Multiple researchers have indicated the STAAR reading test is flawed.
  • The STAAR reading test is not indicative of grade-level skills.
  • On March 5, Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath provided testimony to the Texas House. He stated, “We substantially raised the rigor bar of the assessment… There’s no debate about that.”

Our concerns are NOT about lowering standards for students or schools. What this is about is aligning what is tested on STAAR with the grade level expectations and standards (TEKS) that teachers are required to teach and students are expected to learn.

Why does this matter?

Accountability in education in Texas is based on STAAR results. Students incorrectly assessed can be placed in costly and unnecessary interventions and miss other educational opportunities. Schools can be assigned inaccurate accountability ratings and subject to unnecessary state interventions, or even closures. Most importantly, the state has deceived children and families with inaccurate results.  The social and emotional impact of these decisions on our children is of deep concern.

In the end, based on much research, we believe the STAAR does not measure what it says it is measuring. In Spring Branch ISD, we already view STAAR as just one measure of many. We know that a single test administered on a single day cannot accurately provide a picture of the whole child – a student’s academic achievement, growth, social and emotional development, and post-secondary readiness. That’s why we’ve identified multiple measures that tell us how a child is doing and how on track that child is towards post-secondary success and SBISD’s T-2-4 goal.

Specifically, in SBISD we look at these measures and ask these questions:

  • Academic Growth – How much progress is Every Child making?
  • Academic Achievement – How academically prepared is Every Child?
  • School Connectedness – How is Every Child doing beyond the classroom?
  • Post-Secondary Readiness – Is Every Child on track to be ready for post-secondary success?
  • Post-Secondary Enrollment – How many of our graduates enroll/enlist in post-secondary education the fall semester after graduation?
  • Post-Secondary Completion (T-2-4) – How many of our graduates successfully complete T-2-4 (technical certificate or military training, or a 2-year or 4-year degree)?

We want accountability in SBISD, but we want accurate and meaningful accountability. We want an accountability system that is fair and that is upfront about what it is measuring. Too much rides on the results.

We must correct the misalignment in STAAR. It’s never alright to mislead our children who deserve fair and honest assessments. They and their teachers work too hard for their learning to be misrepresented or inaccurately gauged. Too much hangs in the balance.

We’ll keep you informed on this important news as events warrant.

Sincerely,

Scott R. Muri, Ed.D