Eduardo Calderon & Darius Davila|Staff Writer

Jaguars are very familiar with the end of the year standardized tests that all students must endure, but this year’s freshmen and future high school students will no longer be instructed under the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills requirements.

According to http://www.the109.org/rl-paschal-high-school/story/2012/02/5328.staar-testing-brings-many-changes, the implementation of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness test will bring many changes to the standardized testing landscape for current freshman and future high school students.

The state of Texas decided the change from TAKS to better prepare students for future education.

“They believe the  TAKS test did not provide the rigor necessary to prepare kids adequately for college,” principal John Mehlbrech said. “Many graduating kids took remedial courses in college, the STAAR will prepare kids. It’s college readiness.”

Certain students feel that the STAAR exam will be in their favor.

“I understand why they took out TAKS, it was not preparing us for college,” freshman Griffin Bates said.

The new STAAR tests focuses on specific courses taken that year, instead of having a TAKS test with multiple subjects that a student could have taken a year or two years ago, such as the exit-level science TAKS.

According to http://www.the109.org/rl-paschal-high-school/story/2012/02/5328.staar-testing-brings-many-changes, [the] new STAAR end-of course tests will include course-specific testing in Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, English I, English II, English III, World Geography, World History, and US History.

The state requires that the STAAR count as 15 percent of a student’s final average, but since the test is fairly new, the state has left the decision on how the test should count to the distritct’s themselves – at least for this first year.

STAAR changes the whole test-taking situations that so many students became accustomed to with TAKS.

“It’s much more in-depth, they’re multi-stepped answers, and the test you take count to a cumulative score, in TAKS you must pass as juniors, for STAAR you must pass it every grade level,” Mehlbrech said, “TAKS lasts till 7pm on a school day, there is only a four hour time limit for STAAR.”

There is an early precaution for how to prepare for the vigorous STAAR exam.

“Just like teaching [for it], we must adjust to what they will ask, and apply the knowledge to the answer,” Mehlbrech said.

Students will have a fair chance to pass the new STAAR test that poses a great challenge to students.

“[The state of] Texas will adjust the passing standard, from the usual 70 percent to maybe something like 50 percent,” Mehlbrech said.  This means that instead of passing the test with a 70, you may only need a 50 to pass it, or whatever the standard is determined to be.

According to http://www.the109.org/rl-paschal-high-school/story/2012/02/5328.staar-testing-brings-many-changes, In a recent release from the Texas Education Agency, Education Commissioner Robert Scott announced he would defer the implementation of the ‘15 percent requirement’ for the 2011-2012 school year.  The decision to defer the requirement would be left up to the districts.

Students in NEISD will not have to worry about their final average being affected by the STAAR exam.

According to http://www.neisd.net/staar/high-info.html, NEISD will postpone the 15 percent requirement.  For the 2011-2012 school year, EOC performance will not influence the final course grade or credit.  When and if the 15 percent EOC requirement resumes, NEISD will implement it.

Even thought the 15 percent is not in effect this year, freshmen must do their best when taking the EOC.

“Students need to do well. [The test] will effect their cumulative grade and determine if they need remedial or summer courses.” Mehlbrech said. “Next year the 15 percent will be part of the final grade.”

There’s a growing pandemonium in Texas about the unavailability of summer school to those that fail STAAR, Johnson is prepared to help any child that failed during the summer.

“There is a free program on this campus, students come for 14 days in the summer to Johnson, learn from Johnson teachers for a July test.” Mehlbrech said.

Students that are feeling overwhelmed from STAAR can seek tutoring if necessary.

“They’re doing [tutoring] now, for science, math, and social studies,” Mehlbrech said, “[Teachers] are calling in kids specifically that need help.”

The number of EOCs taken will be dependent on the Graduation Program that the student is taking, the minimum high school program can range from 8 to 12 EOCs, while the recommended and distinguished have 12 EOCs that must be taken, according to http://www.neisd.net/staar/high-info.html.

STAAR like any standardized test has advice to always keep in mind whenever a student is struggling.

“Do what your teachers are asking you to do, understand it’s a change to think harder, and highlight the important items,” Mehlbrech said. “If you do your homework, study, and pay attention in class then you won’t have a problem.”

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About The Author

Eduardo Calderon is a senior at Johnson High School. This is his third year as a member of the Pride, and his first year as the Pride's news editor. He enjoys the journalism field and the photography aspect as well. In his final year, he hopes to end on a good note with Johnson's student newspaper.

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