Currently Proposed Commissioner Rules Affecting the Texas Assessment Program

Word Version

August 2, 2013

TO THE ADMINISTRATOR ADDRESSED:

RE:  Currently Proposed Commissioner Rules Affecting the Texas Assessment Program

This communication is to inform you that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) will be proposing, through commissioner of education rules, a number of significant policy changes concerning the Texas assessment program for the 2013–2014 school year. These policy changes should give districts some direction in implementing new state and federal requirements related to the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR®) and communicating these requirements to teachers, students, and parents.

RELEASE OF THE 2013 STAAR ASSESSMENTS

On August 5, 2013, TEA will release the primary administration of the following 2013 general STAAR assessments:
 
- grades 3–8 mathematics and reading
- grades 4 and 7 writing
- grades 5 and 8 science
- grade 8 social studies
- Algebra I, geometry, Algebra II
- biology, chemistry, physics
- English I, II and III reading
- English I, II and III writing
- world history, world geography, U.S. history

These assessments will be made available on TEA’s Student Assessment Division website at
 http://www.tea.state.tx.us/student.assessment/staar/testquestions. This release should assist districts, students, and parents in understanding the depth and breadth of content and skills assessed on STAAR and the level of performance required for students’ success on the assessment.

REDESIGN OF THE STAAR ENGLISH I AND ENGLISH II ASSESSMENTS

Currently, reading and writing are assessed separately in the STAAR English I and English II end-of-course (EOC) tests. However, TEA is in the process of redesigning the English I and II reading and writing assessments to comply with the provisions of House Bill (HB) 5, 83rd Regular Legislative Session. More specifically, beginning in spring 2014, STAAR English I and II will measure reading and writing achievement through a single assessment given in one day, and students will receive a single score.

To provide additional flexibility for students in the 2015 and 2016 graduating classes during the transition period from separate assessments to combined reading and writing assessments for English I and English II, TEA is proposing to maintain the minimum – and cumulative – score concepts to determine whether students taking these assessments have met their English I and English II graduation requirements. These concepts would be applied within each course, not across courses, and would require students who took separate reading and writing assessments to meet three criteria:

- pass one assessment (either reading or writing);
- meet at least the minimum score on the other; and
- achieve a combined scale score of 3750 (the phase-in 1 standard), which represents the sum of the scale scores needed to reach Level II for reading (1875) and Level II for writing (1875).

These three criteria would apply only to the current STAAR English I and II reading and writing assessments administered prior to the roll-out of the redesigned (combined) English I and II assessments in spring 2014. Under this proposal, students who have not met this requirement by that time would need to take and pass the redesigned assessment(s) to meet their English EOC testing requirement for graduation.

PERFORMANCE STANDARDS FOR 2013–2014 SCHOOL YEAR

Through commissioner of education rules, TEA is proposing to maintain the phase-in 1 performance standards for the STAAR program for the 2013–2014 school year. There are two primary reasons for this proposal:

1) For grades 3–8, schools did not receive performance-level data on students until January 2013, which limited the time available to adjust instruction prior to the spring 2013 test administrations.
2) For all grades and courses, schools did not have access either to a released test form (as they had in the first year of TAKS) or to the associated item-level analysis for their students.

While I firmly believe that Texas students are capable of reaching the high expectations reflected in the final recommended performance standards, I also recognize that the development of strong, coherent, vertically aligned instructional programs requires time and sustained effort. Extending the phase-in 1 standard through the 2013–2014 school year gives schools additional time to raise the level of student performance. 

APPLICATION OF PERFORMANCE STANDARDS ON EOC ASSESSMENTS

Through commissioner of education rules, TEA is proposing that the performance standard needed to meet the testing requirement for graduation be based on the performance standard in place when students take their first EOC test and apply to all five EOC assessments. For example, for students who took STAAR Algebra I in spring 2013, the first phase-in standard for Level II: Satisfactory Performance would apply to Algebra I, STAAR English I, English II, biology, and U.S. history.

TEA is also proposing that students who took Algebra I and received course credit prior to the 2011–2012 school year not be required to take the STAAR Algebra I assessment. However, students cannot use a passing score for a STAAR EOC assessment that is no longer required for graduation as a substitute for an assessment that is still required. For example, a passing score on STAAR geometry cannot be used in lieu of not meeting the required passing standard on Algebra I to satisfy the mathematics testing requirement for graduation since geometry and Algebra I are not equivalent courses with regard to content.

SUBSTITUTE ASSESSMENTS TO FULFILL GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS FOR STAAR

The proposed substitute assessment rule will allow students to substitute certain comparable tests for corresponding STAAR EOC assessments for graduation purposes. To comply with the provisions of HB 5, TEA will implement this rule in the 2013–2014 school year with an effective date retroactive to the 2011¬–2012 school year.

Under the proposed rule for the substitute assessments specified in HB 5, the agency will determine the cut scores that can be used to satisfy a student’s testing requirement for graduation. It will be the responsibility of the district and the student to verify the results on substitute assessments for graduation purposes.

TEA anticipates that the substitute assessment rule will be posted to the Texas Register for public comment in August 2013.

ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS AND ENGLISH EOC GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS

As a result of changes regarding assessment requirements for graduation mandated by HB 5, the Commissioner’s rule (19 TAC §101.1007) pertaining to English language learners (ELLs) and STAAR English EOC graduation requirements will be amended. More specifically, the STAAR English II assessment will replace the STAAR English III assessment as the English EOC graduation requirement for ELLs who meet the special provisions of the rule.  ELL students who qualify will still have to take the English I EOC assessment but will not have to pass it to meet the assessment graduation requirements.  However, they will need to take and pass the English II assessment to meet this requirement.

ASSESSING MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS TAKING ALGEBRA I

Current federal accountability requirements specify that students have a mathematics score every year in grades 3–8 as well as a mathematics score in high school. The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) requires states that offer only one mathematics assessment at the high school level — which can also be taken by middle school students — to ensure there is a mathematics result that can be attributed to a high school.  Based on this federal requirement and a related provision within HB 5, I am reluctantly advising districts to plan on administering multiple assessments to students taking Algebra I in middle school or understand the potential federal accountability consequences of testing these students only on Algebra I. By administering multiple tests to students taking Algebra I in middle school, assessment results for the current grade level (e.g., the STAAR grade 8 mathematics score) can be used for federal accountability purposes, while STAAR Algebra I results can be applied in subsequent years where appropriate.

I do not agree with this federal requirement and would encourage districts to continue to make the best instructional choices for students regardless of the potential accountability impact. The agency will pursue other options with the USDE, where possible, to minimize any negative consequences for students. However, I am not aware of other options that are feasible for the 2013–2014 school year that would satisfy current federal accountability requirements and the legislative requirements of HB 5.

REDESIGN OF THE STAAR ALTERNATE PROGRAM

HB 5 requires that the agency develop an alternate assessment for the most severely cognitively disabled students that does not require teachers to prepare tasks or materials.  This newly designed alternate assessment will be administered for the first time in the spring of the 2014–2015 school year.

Senate Bill (SB) 906 goes into effect in the 2013–2014 school year and prohibits the agency from “adopting a performance standard that indicates that a student's performance on the alternate assessment does not meet standards if the lowest level of the assessment accurately represents the student's developmental level as determined by the student's admission, review, and dismissal committee.” To comply with this requirement, TEA will propose in commissioner rule that the adjusted phase-in standard that was used for the STAAR Alternate program in 2011–2012 be applied to the 2013–2014 results. 

THE STAAR MODIFIED PROGRAM

The USDE has informed states that assessments based on modified standards for students served by special education cannot be used for accountability purposes after the 2013–2014 school year. Therefore, all STAAR Modified assessments will be administered for the final time during the 2013–2014 assessment cycle. Further information regarding plans for the inclusion of this population of students in the general assessment program beginning with the 2014–2015 school year will be forthcoming.

BENCHMARK TESTING

HB 5 prohibits districts from administering more than two benchmark tests for any corresponding grade/subject or course STAAR assessment. To ensure that students are truly prepared for STAAR, schools must develop strong, coherent academic programs and provide students with high-quality instruction.

Information about additional provisions in HB 5 and related legislation will be communicated as soon as it is available.  For general information regarding the assessment program, please call the Student Assessment Division at 512-463-9536.

 

Sincerely,

Michael Williams
Commissioner of Education