STAAR-Gazing

High School Students Prepare for the English STAAR Test

A+sample+essay+prompt+for+the+English+II+STAAR+exam+is+shown.+English+Teacher+Lauren+Madrid+said+believes+that+her+students+are+prepared+to+take+the+exam.+%22I+will+give+my+students+all+the+material+they+need+to+succeed+-+grammar+assessments%2C+opportunities+to+read+essays+from+the+past%2C+poetry+analysis+and+more%2C%22+Madrid+said.+%22To+me%2C+it%E2%80%99s+realistic+that+some+of+my+classes+can+all+score+above+80%2C+even+if+the+district+isn%E2%80%99t+graded+by+results+this+year.%E2%80%9D

Jaden Kolenbrander

A sample essay prompt for the English II STAAR exam is shown. English Teacher Lauren Madrid said believes that her students are prepared to take the exam. “I will give my students all the material they need to succeed – grammar assessments, opportunities to read essays from the past, poetry analysis and more,” Madrid said. “To me, it’s realistic that some of my classes can all score above 80, even if the district isn’t graded by results this year.”

Jaden Kolenbrander, Reporter

Tomorrow, high school students will take the English II STAAR test. All eyes are on the Texas Education Agency as they plan to administer the STAAR digitally at monitored test sites. Even though many students across Texas are stuck learning remotely, the agency went forward with its plans.

Staff members like English teacher Lauren Madrid are focusing on grammar exercises and essay composition, both subjects that are essential for scoring highly on the STAAR. 

“The state of Texas has decided that high schoolers are required to take the STAAR in 2021,” Madrid said. “I will give my students all the material they need to succeed – grammar assessments, opportunities to read essays from the past, poetry analysis and more. To me, it’s realistic that some of my classes can all score above 80, even if the district isn’t graded by results this year.”

Some critics of the test, like the Association of Texas Professional Educators, are citing how transmission rates of COVID-19 will potentially rise if kids are required to take it physically. Students like sophomore Kai Gray are also questioning the decision.

“I think it’s a sensible decision to take the STAAR test,” Gray said. “But why are we meeting physically, while the test is still taken on computers? The administrators of the test should have planned this better, especially with reports of how their site is working.”

Statewide reports are coming in that the website students from elementary to high school are using is running slowly, or not allowing users to log in. Although it seems the TEA will take steps to improve the situation from April 6, the technical issues and transmission risk have been a major point of contention for many.

“I don’t fully support the decision that the TEA has taken,” Madrid said. “They should’ve been better prepared, to give every student an equal chance. But all I can tell students is to be prepared for April 22, as it’s the test that determines your graduation from English class.”

Should students miss this test, their only other opportunity is next December. The day before the test, students are also required to load the STAAR Online Testing Platform on a district-owned computer. 

“Yesterday was the first time in months I used my district-owned laptop,” sophomore Caleb Taylor said. “The TEA should allow an at-home option, but since this is the format they decided I can only hope it runs smoothly.”