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Superintendents Say STAAR Testing Doesn't Measure Up

Nearly 50 superintendents in the Houston area sent a letter to the Texas Commissioner of Education, Mike Morath, complaining about multiple problems with the State of Texas Assessments and Academic Readiness, or STAAR standardized test.  Districts in the San Antonio area have also complained.

Over 14,000 students who took the test online in March encountered problems, including answers not being saved, tests being scored inaccurately, tests not being delivered, and test results being sent to the wrong school. A total of 2.3 million students took the test during that period.  The STAAR test was administered for the first time by a new vendor, Educational Testing Service, or ETS.

Debbie Ratcliffe is Director of Media Relations for the Texas Education Agency. She says that the level of service has been unacceptable, and that testing is already stressful for students and teachers without these added problems.

“The commissioner said publicly during an April State Board of Education meeting that if these problems aren’t corrected with this later spring testing, he’ll consider taking action against ETS, up to and possibly including rebidding the contract,” she said.

STAAR results impact teacher assessments. Fifth and eighth graders must pass certain portions of the test to move on a grade. Ratcliffe says those school children affected by the online test glitches will not be held back a grade.   

Louisa Jonas is an independent public radio producer, environmental writer, and radio production teacher based in Baltimore. She is thrilled to have been a PRX STEM Story Project recipient for which she produced a piece about periodical cicadas. Her work includes documentaries about spawning horseshoe crabs and migratory shorebirds aired on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered. Louisa previously worked as the podcast producer at WYPR 88.1FM in Baltimore. There she created and produced two documentary podcast series: Natural Maryland and Ascending: Baltimore School for the Arts. The Nature Conservancy selected her documentaries for their podcast Nature Stories. She has also produced for the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s Distillations Podcast. Louisa is editor of the book Backyard Carolina: Two Decades of Public Radio Commentary. She holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from University of North Carolina Wilmington. Her training also includes journalism fellowships from the Science Literacy Project and the Knight Digital Media Center, both in Berkeley, CA. Most recently she received a journalism fellowship through Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution where she traveled to Toolik Field Station in Arctic Alaska to study climate change. In addition to her work as an independent producer, she teaches radio production classes at Howard Community College to a great group of budding journalists. She has worked as an environmental educator and canoe instructor but has yet to convince a great blue heron to squawk for her microphone…she remains undeterred.