Evaluating STAAR Question #6

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Are the STAAR tests designed to assess what students have learned?

Are the STAAR Test Questions Correct? Do the STAAR Questions align with the TEKS? Are the STAAR Questions  Tricky?

The STAAR tests are a one-size fits all assessment. Sadly student grades on the STAAR determine whether they pass or fail grades, courses or even graduate. Students can be on the honor roll and be failed because of failing the STAAR tests.

STAAR test grades become part of a students permanent records. These records are shared with organizations outside the school district. Thus, information about the STAAR test–how it is scored needs to be more transparent.

What is the Objective of Taking the STAAR TESTS?

At this time the STAAR tests can only hurt students who are making passing grades in their classes.

Why are school districts bullying parents and students about consequences for opting out of STAAR?

The STAAR tests do not help or hurt students who are making failing grades in their classes.

Why are school districts forcing students with failing grades to take the STAAR TESTS?

Do schools receive payment for giving the STAAR tests?

Help Me Evaluate Question #6 the 5th grade 2013 Science STAAR Questions

The question must be age appropriate, aligned with the TEKS, and have  a correct answer with three quality distractors. Pearson Publishing describes a good question with quality distractors here:The Distractor Rationale Taxonomy: Enhancing  – Assessment

The TEKS for question #6 are:

Science Process Skills TEKS

5.2 Scientific investigation and reasoning. The student uses scientific methods during laboratory and outdoor investigations. The student is expected to:

Analyze and interpret information to construct reasonable explanations from direct (observable) and indirect (inferred) evidence.

Comment: Question #6 on 5th grade science STAAR 2013 DOES NOT describe an investigation, thus question #6 does not represent  TEKS 5.2D.

Science Content TEKS

5.6: Force, motion and energy. The student knows that energy occurs in many forms and can be observed in cycles, patterns, and systems. The student is expected to:

Explore the uses of energy, including mechanical, light, thermal, electrical, and sound energy

 Comment: Preparing students for the STAAR is one big guessing game. If this TEKS is all you have as a guide, what uses of each of the types of energies listed would you teach? 

Question #6

FACTS Students Need to Know:

Mechanical Energy  is the energy which is possessed by an object due to its motion or its stored energy of position.

5th Science STAAR 2013 #6  The  water flowing through the pipe  in the diagram has mechanical energy because it is in motion.

An object which possesses mechanical energy is able to do work. This means the water is able to apply a force on the turbine blades and cause the to spin.

Thus, the mechanical energy of the flowing water makes the turbine blades spin.


This question doesn’t really determine if students know the meaning of mechanical energy. Light, thermal, and sound can easily be eliminated, thus mechanical energy is the only logical answer. 89% of students chose the correct answer.

Since Texas education has one focus–the STAAR tests and EOC tests, students may know more about how to take a test than about the content of the test questions.



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  1. Scott Klump says:

    In the 21st century the general memorization of innumerable facts is really no longer necessary as most people including those at the elementary school level have all the answers in their pockets (smartphones and google). It is the ability to process information and use it in new ways that is so important for students to learn in this century! With your emphasis on the importance on textbooks (hopefully your not being supported by a publisher?) and other antiquated ideas I think you are seriously out of step with the times. The middle school in which I teach doesn’t used a science textbook, and yet our scores were nearly 10% higher that state average. Our campus was distinguished in science also. And, yes, we have used CSCOPE for three years!

  2. Scott Klump says:

    TEKS 5.6D says nothing about DESCRIBING! The verbs used in the TEKS are analyze and interpret which is exactly what this question (#6) asks the student to do! As to your question about which uses of energy to teach, shows a complete lack of understanding or rigor. Students must be able to APPLY information to new but related concept. If, as a teacher I help students understand what mechanical energy is and give them examples of it (I could never share EVERY example) they should be able to apply that knowledge to new situations. That is the point of rigor! Most questions on the STAAR test are on the application and analysis level of understanding.

    • Janice VanCleave says:

      Not all students are able to achieve the “high level” of thinking you describe.
      I agree with you that the STAAR test questions are suppose to be on the application and analysis level of understanding.
      This is good for high school, but elementary school should be as its name indicates–ELEMENTARY. The foundation is being skipped.

  3. Janice,

    What are the answer choices? I can think of a few answers I would select before I would put before hydropower, since power and energy are not the same thing.


    • Janice VanCleave says:

      B Self,

      I do appreciate your comment. I am happy to report that the STAAR Question #6 is correct.
      I will correct this on my website and send an apology to TEA.

      “Mechanical energy is derived by directing, harnessing, or channeling moving water. The amount of available energy in moving water is determined by its flow or fall.”