Last year, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) changed some important aspects of the information it shares with parents and kids about the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness or STAAR. The STAAR, of course, refers to the standardized tests Texas students take yearly in math and reading starting in third grade and continuing through middle school. Students are also tested in science, writing and social studies during some years. In high school, only specific subjects are assessed, namely Algebra I, English I and II, Biology and U.S. History.
What has changed are the report cards (or Confidential Student Reports) TEA issues and the related resources available online. Revamped reports were emailed and mailed this summer to Texas families while a new, more interactive portal for students and parents went online June 30. In case these developments escaped your attention, here is what you need to know.
The New Report Card
The new student report card issued by TEA was redesigned to help parents better understand their child’s test results. To that end, it contains more explanation and interpretation, along with tips and strategies parents can use to support their child’s academic progress. For instance, the report graphically shows your child’s growth in math and reading (for elementary through middle school students), provides strategies you can use to support learning at home and even recommends book titles for your child. If you didn’t receive or can’t find the report card, download it from the student portal (see instructions below) or check with your child’s school.
TEA also changed the way your child’s performance is described. Previously, a child’s test score was either satisfactory, below satisfactory or advanced in each area tested. The new report card renames these categories (see below) and breaks what used to be the satisfactory range into two parts: approaching grade level and meeting standards for that grade level.
Based on TEA’s updated explanations, a student’s performance in the category of either “approaching” or “does not meet grade level” may indicate a need for help in the coming year. So, if your child’s scores landed in either of these two categories for any subjects, consult with his or her current teachers to ensure that your child is getting any additional help and support he or she may need.
The New Student Portal
The new online portal displays detailed information about tests your child has taken. To get there, you’ll need to find your six-character “unique access code.” This code has appeared on STAAR reports you may have received in previous years and does not change. With this code and your child’s date of birth, you can access his or her STAAR results and related information at texasassessment.com. If you don’t have the necessary code, you can still get to your child’s information but with a few more steps. A lookup feature is offered on the site, or you are advised to call your local school.
Once there, choose a subject (such as Mathematics) and then go to the “Detailed View.” Here you can scroll through the test questions to see which ones your child missed and which ones he or she answered correctly. Click on any of these to see the questions and possible responses. The site will even tell you why each selection was correct or incorrect.
Reviewing these results can give parents a general sense of the areas in which their child may be confused or behind. But parents shouldn’t feel responsible for bridging that gap themselves, according to TEA Deputy Commissioner of Academics Penny Schwinn. The hope is that this information empowers parents to advocate for help at the school level, she says. “We don’t expect the majority of parents to be able do that tutoring themselves.”
Resources—including explanatory videos and more—that will help you interpret your child’s STAAR report card can be found here: tinyurl.com/yatgepkl. In addition, while some communication was available in Spanish this year, TEA is working to expand its effort to reach other language speakers. In 2018, the entire portal is expected to be available in Spanish, and some information will also be available in 10 other languages, Schwinn says.
Margaret Nicklas is an Austin-based freelance journalist, writer and mom.