“Being a STAAR: What to Expect during Senior Year”

By Joanna Hinojosa

With the holiday break over, many students are heading back to school with the STAAR test, hanging over their heads. The STAAR test, a standardized test given to students in the state of Texas, is a source of much stress to both parents and students alike. What with all the pressure that is put on passing these tests, it can quickly become a point of worry and dread. But what is the STAAR test and what does it mean for your child? Simply put, the STAAR test is a big hurdle that stands between your child and graduation. For seniors, another name for it would be the EOC (End of Course) tests which take place in late April and early May, unless your district is year round. Because these tests are pretty important, there are a number of resources that you can access to help you understand the process in full. There are also a few things to know about these tests, and some resources that are available to you and your student.

EOC VERSUS STAAR

Being the parent of a senior, the STAAR is no stranger to you. But there is extra pressure on the tests given in May, as it can keep your child from walking with their class. In addition, the way the STAAR is given to seniors and juniors is a bit different from how it worked in their freshman and sophomore year. To start, let’s go over the acronyms. The EOC and the STAAR, are actually one and the same, though with a slight difference: Their testing style. While the STAAR is usually an all in one test, the EOC is not. According to the Texas Education Agency’s website, or tea.texas.gov, the STAAR functions as a massive test that accesses across subjects. They are all focused on one grade level, but within that level are multiple subjects to test student comprehension. When your student was in middle school, you probably heard this name used often. In high school, hearing about the EOC may have been more common.

The EOC on the other hand, while still under the STAAR, does not test across subjects. According to TEA the EOC is series of tests that are given within each subject. This means that instead of one massive test, your child is facing several. The requirements for each subject will vary slightly as well. Instead of semi-inclusive scoring, which tended to give overall goals, each EOC will be testing the comprehension of individual knowledge and capability. These means there are multiple requirements for each subject. The tests then, are not only more demanding, but also require different study session for each. This can make the EOC challenging to say the least.

THINGS TO KNOW

The tea.texas.gov website has actually provided PDF files with valuable information to help prepare your child for the EOC. While there are no study guides in the traditional sense, there are a number of information sheets that are very helpful. First are the EOC test blueprints. These are available to parents at http://tea.texas.gov/student.assessment/staar/. These blueprints provide the reader with all the requirements set for the test, what is in each section, and what the criteria for passing will be. These blueprints can function as a study guide for you child as it clearly outlines what the test will have, making it easier to study for.

Rubrics are also available to view and print for you and your student’s benefit. Besides this there are a number of guides that explain what the test will ask, along with samples and score break downs. In others words, these documents explain what grade the student received and why they may have received it. There is a section included that details what makes a good scoring test, and what makes a bad scoring test. These documents can be found at http://tea.texas.gov/student.assessment/staar/writing/ under the High School section.

For both parents and students who more comfortable speaking Spanish, there are options available. The EOC and STAAR now have Spanish options. This is not just for the tests, but also for the parents. Almost every document posted to the tea.texas.gov website has a Spanish counterpoint. This makes the entire process transparent from start to finish, regards of your language. Documents meant for parents are also available in Spanish. There are copies of these documents on tea.texas.gov. These options are just under the English versions and are clearly marked for easy access.

Getting ready for graduation is a bust time for both parent and student alike. There are parties to plan and tests to prepare for. Besides the tests themselves, there are also extracurricular activities to get ready for. All the stress encountered by students is tough to get through, but not impossible. Knowing about the test and some of the resources provided is a great way to combat the stress. This spring, focus on the positive, and do what you can to help your student succeed. See you at graduation!

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