Shorter Tests with Higher Standards
House Bill 743 Update

This spring, third through eighth grade students in Marble Falls and across Texas will take shorter State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) following an announcement by Commissioner of Education Michael Williams Friday.

“House Bill 743, which was passed by the Legislature earlier this year, requires STAAR assessments be designed so 85 percent of students can complete the grades 3–5 assessments in two hours and 85 percent of students can complete the grades 6–8 assessments in three hours,” said Commissioner Williams. “The steps I’m announcing for the coming school year are merely the first as TEA works to meet the legislative requirements while also balancing the validity and reliability of each assessment.”

To meet the legislative requirements of HB 743, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) will take the following actions in the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 school years:

• For 2016 only, the TEA will remove all currently-embedded field-test questions for STAAR grades 3–8, which will reduce the length of each assessment by five to eight questions.
• The TEA has also redesigned the 2016 STAAR grades 4 and 7 writing tests so they will be completed in one four-hour administration.

Commissioner of Education Michael Williams also advised school districts of his recommendation to replace the current phase-in schedule for the STAAR student passing standards with a revised approach. STAAR performance standards had been scheduled to move to the more rigorous Phase-in 2 passing standard this school year. Each time the performance standard is increased, a student must achieve a higher score in order to pass a STAAR exam. The STAAR performance standards have been at phase-in 1 for the past four years, since STAAR replaced TAKS.

“Under new proposed rules from the Commissioner, the traditional phase-in approach would be replaced with a standard progression approach from 2015–2016 through 2021–2022, the year final standards are scheduled to be in place,” reports Melissa Fields, MFISD Testing and Accountability Coordinator. “In other words, rather than larger jumps to more rigorous performance standards every few years, this progression approach would mean smaller, predictable increases every year through the 2021–2022 school year.”

Commissioner Williams delayed moving to final recommended standards to allow educators and students to adjust to the more rigorous curriculum and assessments. In making this recommendation, Commissioner Williams emphasized that increasing the performance standards in smaller increments will still mean the state reaches the final performance standards on the current schedule. Marble Falls ISD has always prepared students for the final recommended performance standard, however the Commissioner’s revised approach to raising the standards more gradually will be a welcome change to hard working teachers and students.

For more information on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, visit:

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Contact: Bruce Peckover