In a June 6 story for Education Week, I profiled the 15 new STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) high-stakes, end-of-course tests that high school students will eventually need to pass in order to graduate. On June 8, the Texas Education Agency released the scores from five of those tests. In addition, agency officials also jumped in the DeLorean time machine and reported what the proficiency rates would be in 2016, if students' STAAR performance remained flat from 2012 to 2016, when the phase-in of the final, tougher passing requirements is slated to finish. The disparities are pretty dramatic.
First, the 2012 results. The students' highest passing rate on the Biology exam, which 87 percent of students passed by scoring a Level II, while 9 percent of students scored at the advanced Level III. On Algebra I, the passing rate was 83 percent, while 17 percent scored advanced, the highest percentage on any of the tests. And in World Geography, the passing rate was 81 percent, with 13 percent reaching the advanced level.
On the English I assessment, the news was less good. English I is actually split into two different tests, one for reading and one for writing. On the reading test, 68 percent passed and 8 percent scored as advanced. But only 55 percent passed the writing test, and a mere 3 percent scored as advanced in writing.
Now let's follow Marty McFly into the DeLorean and head to 2016, when the passing score is scheduled to be significantly higher. Here's the performance of Texas students in 2012 when judged on 2016 cutoff scores.
•The percentage of passing students on the Biology exam would have dropped from 87 to 41 percent.
•The percentage of passing students on the Algebra I exam would have dropped from 83 percent to 39 percent.
•The percentage of passing students on the World Geography exam would have dropped from 81 percent to 40 percent.
•The percentage of passing students on the English I reading exam would have dropped from 68 to 46 percent.
•The percentage of passing students on the English I writing exam would have dropped from 55 to 34 percent.
More than 319,000 students took the five courses I highlighted above, according to the Texas Education Agency. A "much smaller" group of students took the other 10 end-of-course tests. While information from the TEA about those tests was limited, the agency did say that passing rates ranged from 98 percent on geometry to just 38 percent on the English III writing test.