South Plains schools testing state exam that could replace STAAR

Published: Dec. 14, 2022 at 10:28 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 14, 2022 at 10:45 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Some schools in our area are pioneering what could be the future of standardized testing.

The Texas Through-year Assessment Pilot or TTAP program launched this year. It’s the result of a bill state legislators passed in 2019, ordering the TEA to develop a pilot exam that could replace the STAAR test. Roosevelt, O’Donnell, Ralls and Wellman-Union school districts are participating.

Instead of a single-day test at the end of a course, students will take multiple exams throughout the school year. Deputy Superintendent at Roosevelt ISD Jimmy Ledbetter says that will take some pressure off students.

“I think, for students, it’s a little more in line with what we would regularly do in the classroom. We’re not just going to test you once at the end of the year and say that’s what your grades depend upon, but we’re going to test you throughout the year multiple times and give you opportunities to show your mastery,” Ledbetter said.

The tests are only about 20 questions, whereas Ledbetter says the STAAR test basically shuts down campus for a day. He says the new exams can replace the benchmarks the district normally has to administer.

“This is a shorter test, do it in about a class period, 45 minutes, maybe an hour at most, so it doesn’t interrupt the day nearly as much. It’s a lot quicker and we get our data so much quicker, too,” he said.

The district completed the fall round of testing in December. Ledbetter says some results came back the same day, a pleasant change for teachers.

“Teachers were excited. They wanted to see the data. We got some of our data kind of instantaneously and so we were able to see that, the day of.”

One challenge with the TTAP, even though the first exam is in late fall - it covers the entire school year of material.

“So, they’re being tested. They’re going to ask, get questions asked of them that they haven’t learned in class yet in those first two assessment periods, but hopefully by the third one, they’ll have had all that material and will be good,” Ledbetter said.

With that in mind, he’s interested to see how the state would score tests using this model in the future.

No matter the test, Superintendent Dallas Grimes says he appreciates the accountability standardized testing provides, but the district’s responsibility to its community goes beyond that.

“At the local level, or our local accountability, our parents want their kids safe. Our parents want their kids loved on. Our parents want their kids disciplined. Our success or failure is not going to be judged on a one-day test, but that being said, we’re going to do the best we can to get our kids ready for it,” Grimes said.

The pilot program also allows Eagles to see new question types - non-multiple choice - that will be on the spring STAAR exam.

“And so there’s a lot of new question types out there. Well these tests, the TTAP has the new question types embedded in it, so our students are going to see the new question types in the new format on that platform, so that opportunity for them to see them all, that’s pretty powerful,” Ledbetter said.

The TTAP starts with only one exam in four different grade levels, but more grades and subjects will be added in the coming years. You can learn more about the pilot program here.