The impacts of standardized testing reverberate inside and outside school buildings across Texas. Because of this reality, State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) testing has been a consistent domain of the Charles Butt Foundation’s survey research. Our latest report, Texans’ Views of the State Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR), synthesizes STAAR-related data from the perspectives of Texans, both parents and non-parents, and teachers using data from our 2020-23 Texas Education Poll and Texas Teacher Poll reports.
It is clear from seven surveys over four years, Texans question the STAAR test as an accurate reflection of student learning. Texans see STAAR as a challenge and barrier for teachers. And though some Texans recognize the value in STAAR as a source of information about student progress, Texans would prefer a variety of factors, beyond the results of one test, to determine A-F accountability ratings.
Proponents of high-stakes standardized testing emphasize the importance of tests as a gold standard of measuring student learning; however, from our data it is clear Texans are skeptical about whether STAAR accurately reflects student learning. For example, in our most recent 2023 Texas Education Poll, only 42% of Texans and 53% of public school parents are confident the STAAR test effectively measures how well students are learning. We see a decline in this confidence amongst teachers. In our most recent 2022 Texas Teacher Poll, only 16% of teachers believe STAAR effectively reflects student learning.
Both Texans and teachers voice concerns about the pressure of preparing for the STAAR test. In the 2020 Texas Teacher Poll, 82% of Texas teachers report pressure to have their students do well on standardized tests is a challenge for them. Similarly, in the 2022 Texas Education Poll, 91% of Texans recognize the pressure of standardized tests is a challenge for teachers.
In the 2021 Texas Teacher Poll, 83% of teachers say the time they spend preparing students for STAAR is not a good use of instruction time. Furthermore, 81% of teachers in the most recent 2022 Texas Teacher Poll share that the inherent pressures of standardized testing interfere with their ability to be as good a teacher as possible. Only one other obstacle referenced in our poll—too many non-instructional tasks and responsibilities—was seen as a bigger barrier to effective teaching than STAAR.
Our polling data shows some Texans recognize assessments can provide an understanding of how well a student, campus, or district is performing. In our 2022 Texas Education Poll, half of parents report their child’s STAAR test scores are a source of good information about their child’s progress. However, it is important to recognize this metric trails other sources, including talking with your child, report cards, parent-teacher conferences, and other teacher communications.
While some parents believe STAAR can provide good information about performance, Texans do not believe these scores should be used to determine teacher quality. In the 2021 Texas Education Poll, less than half of Texans indicate preparing students for standardized testing is an “extremely” or “very important” factor in determining teacher quality. Texans prefer other indicators more related to the daily instructional and classroom management tasks teachers are responsible for inside a classroom. Over 80% of Texans recognize making the class engaging and relevant, and maintaining an organized and safe classroom as important indicators of teacher quality.
With regards to utilizing standardized tests as a metric to determine campus and district quality, Texans are split. In the 2021 Texas Education Poll, just over half of Texans recognize student scores on STAAR tests as “at least somewhat effective” at measuring the quality of a student’s campus, and 54% see the tests as a metric of school district quality.
An important finding from our four years of polling drives home the point that Texans do not believe STAAR scores should be the only factor to determine the quality of a campus, district, or teacher. In the 2020 Texas Education Poll, less than four in 10 Texans believe preparing students to perform on a standardized test is an important indicator of school quality. Most Texans identify other factors as more important, including how well a school helps students learn self-management, interpersonal skills, and decision-making (81%); prepares students for jobs (79%); and prepares students for college (72%). More recently, in the 2021 Texas Education Poll, Texans continue to support non-test factors as a measure of school quality. When asked about TEA’s A-F accountability ratings, 68% of Texans said these ratings should be based on a combination of student scores on state standardized tests and non-test factors.
It is clear from four years and seven surveys, Texans, parents, and teachers are critical skeptics about standardized testing’s outsized impact on education across the state of Texas. Teachers, who know most about learning in classrooms, doubt how these tests reflect student learning. The Charles Butt Foundation Public Research Data unequivocally demonstrates Texans recognize the complexity of classrooms and learning, and desire other metrics to evaluate and demonstrate the quality of education in Texas.
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