STAAR Lacks Rigor

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Rigorous describes something that is done carefully and with a lot of detail.

Is the 5th grade science 2013 STAAR Question #4, shown here, rigorous?
Was care taken in writing the answer choices?
Fifth Grade Science STAAR question lacks rigor.

Choice G is given as the correct answer, but it does not demonstrate the reflection of light. None of the answer choices demonstrate the reflection of light. This is because of the use of the term “looking.”

Looking at an image formed on a silver spoon refers to turning one’s eyes toward the image. This is very different from “seeing” the image, which is the visual perception of an object. To see or perceive the image of an object formed on a silver spoon, light from the actual  object must be reflected from the shiny surface to the person’s eyes.

TEA announced in 2010 that new more rigorous state standards (TEKS) were written to prepare students for the new more rigorous STAAR tests.

While students are being held to more rigorous standards. The  science STAAR question #4 shown is not correct much less rigorous.

Gloria Zyskowski TEA Assessments

The problem with  question #4 is that the writer was not careful with the details. Looking and seeing mean different things and in this question, using looking makes all the answers incorrect.

If you agree that the answer choices for this 5th grade science STAAR Test are not correct, please report it to TEA. In all 24% of the students were not given credit for answering this question.

This means that 84,378 students need to have their Science STAAR grade changed on their permanent records.

TEA is not taking reported errors on the STAAR test serious. But one raw score point on the STAAR tests has much more value than just one singe point.

STAAR 2013 raw and scale scores 5th gradeI’ve not yet figured out how  TEA takes Raw Scores and turns them into scale scores. There seems to be a team of “experts” that analyze the raw scores after the test is taken. It is with this information that some formula is created. This formula seems not to give equal value to each raw score point. Notice that the higher the raw score points the difference in the scale score decreases.

At the high end of the raw score scale, one additional point makes a difference between passing and failing. According to TEA, every question on any STAAR or EOC test has a value of one raw score point. So, the formula used to determine the scale score has nothing to do with the rigor of the questions.

This makes it even more important to report errors on the STAAR tests.

In evaluating the 5th grade science 2013 STAAR test, I have identified eight + science errors, multiple answers, no correct answers, and one question that is not part of the 5th grade TEKS.

I report all errors and questions about the STAAR tests to TEA. After the first two reported errors, I received this response :

 “Thank you for communicating your concerns about two questions on the 2013 State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) grade 5 science released test. All of the STAAR questions are reviewed by content specialists in the assessment and curriculum divisions of the Texas Education Agency (TEA), as well as by committees of educators from across the state of Texas.”

 “One of the characteristics of the STAAR program is its emphasis on the ability to think critically and apply the assessed knowledge and skills in varied contexts.”

The bottom line was that the TEA content specialists do not make mistakes. I did follow up with documented facts proving that one of the STAAR question’s science content was not correct. That has been months ago and I’ve not received any further response.

While the science STAAR grades are used to evaluate school districts, only Reading and Math STAAR tests are retaken. In fact, students are given three opportunities to pass the reading and math STAAR tests. Only one try for science.

Please contact TEA if you agree that the 5th grade 2013 STAAR test question #4 does not have valid answers, thus should not count against students.


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  1. Scott Klump says:

    Your really grasping at straws with this one! Do your really thing a 5th grader would know the difference between looking at something and seeing it!!!

    • Janice VanCleave says:

      Scott, my point is that the TEA science test writers should know the difference and write correct questions.

    • Janice VanCleave says:

      It is not that a 5th grader will know the difference, the point is that test writers should know this difference. You know the difference and thus instead of attacking me should be pointing out to TEA that the test writers seem not to understand science.

  2. The whole question, aside from the distinction between looking and seeing, leads students to the misconception that only shiny surfaces reflect light. Bad ideas taught in elementary school are difficult to correct in high school.

    And, to TEA, no – adding the ubiquitous “which is the BEST answer” does not excuse the fact that none of them are good answers. In essence, this is the same as saying, “pick the answer that is least incorrect.” Unless there are multiple “good” answers and only one that is better than the others, the “best” phrase should never be used. It is a sloppy habit for writers to get into, just so they can excuse poor questions.