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What Is the STAAR Test? Do You Need to Take It?

Posted by Hannah Muniz | Dec 18, 2019 1:00:00 PM

General Education

 

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If you live in Texas, then you've probably heard of the STAAR test. But what exactly does this test entail? Who has to take it? And when are the STAAR test dates?

In this guide, we'll explain what the Texas STAAR test is, when it's administered, and who's required to take it. We'll also tell you what's considered passing and how you can view your (or your child's) STAAR scores. Let's get started!

 

What Is the STAAR Test? Overview

The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, is a collection of standardized tests that primary and secondary students in Texas must pass in order to progress to the next grade level and graduate high school.

This state testing program was first implemented during the 2011-12 school year as a replacement for the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) program.

Here's how the Texas Education Agency (TEA) defines the STAAR test program:

"STAAR is an assessment program designed to measure the extent to which students have learned and are able to apply the knowledge and skills defined in the state-mandated curriculum standards, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). Every STAAR question is directly aligned to the TEKS currently implemented for the grade/subject or course being assessed."

There are several types of STAAR tests that cover a range of basic subjects, from reading and writing to math, science, and social studies. So when people refer to the "STAAR test," what they're actually referring to is just one of the STAAR tests (likely the one they have to take for their grade).

Students in the 3rd through 8th grade at Texas public schools must take at least two STAAR tests every year (the tests you have to take will vary depending on your grade level).

Meanwhile, high school students are required to pass five subject-specific STAAR tests (possibly seven, depending on the district) at any time in grades 9 through 12 in order to graduate and earn a high school diploma. These high school tests are called end-of-course (EOC) exams since you're supposed to take them after you finish the corresponding high school course.

This is just an overview of the Texas STAAR test program. So how does each STAAR test work? And what type of STAAR test is required at each grade level?

 

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STAAR Test Subjects and Format

As mentioned, there are several different kinds of STAAR tests given at different grade levels. Here are the Texas STAAR test requirements for all public schools:

Grade Level
Required STAAR Test
K-2
None
3
Math, Reading
4
Math, Reading, Writing
5
Math, Reading, Science
6
Math, Reading
7
Math, Reading, Writing
8
Math, Reading, Science, Social Studies
9-12*
Algebra I, English I, English II, Biology, US History
(Optional: Algebra II, English III)

Source: Texas Assessment Program FAQs

*The required STAAR tests for grades 9-12 must only be taken and passed once each at some point in high school, regardless of grade level.

As you can see here, math and reading assessments are required annually for students in grades 3 through 8.

As part of the Texas Student Success Initiative, students in grades 5 and 8 must pass the math and reading exams for their grade to be promoted to the next grade. In other words, all 5th grade students have to pass math and reading to get into 6th grade, while all 8th grade students have to pass math and reading to advance to 9th grade.

These students will get three testing opportunities to pass their reading and math assessments. The first administration is in early April, the second is in mid-May, and the third is in late June. You can view upcoming STAAR test dates at the TEA website. Schools must use the time between tests to provide accelerated instruction to students who did not pass their STAAR test.

Once a student enters high school, they must enroll in relevant courses to be able to take the five required EOC exams, which are as follows:

  • Algebra I
  • English I
  • English II
  • Biology
  • US History

Note that some districts may require two additional EOC exams: Algebra II and English III.

You will take the EOC STAAR test right after you complete the corresponding course. Each STAAR test is offered three times a year on paper or computer in the fall, spring, and summer, giving you plenty of opportunities to retake any tests you don't pass on your first attempt.

The grade in which you take a particular EOC STAAR test will depend on when you complete that test's corresponding course. For example, most students take a biology class in 9th grade, so you could take the Biology STAAR test in the spring of your freshman year. Even if you don't pass it, you will still have several chances to retake it: once that summer and three times per year in 10th, 11th, and 12th grade.

If you pass a course but fail its EOC test, you can simply retake it on another administration.

But not every high school student needs to take and pass every EOC STAAR test. According to TEA, substitutions can be made for some EOC exams. Test scores that could possibly replace scores from EOC tests include those from the SAT, the ACT, AP tests, and IB tests. For instance, you might be able to use your SAT Math score as a substitute for your Algebra I EOC exam requirement.

Details on which standardized test scores can be used as substitutes for STAAR test results can be found on the Texas Secretary of State website.

 

body_rubber_ducky_diplomaPass all your STAAR tests so you can get your diploma!

 

What STAAR Scores Do You Need to Pass?

You'll need to pass certain STAAR tests in order to progress to the next grade level and earn your high school diploma in Texas.

Here's each STAAR test you absolutely must pass:

  • Grade 5 reading and math assessments
  • Grade 8 reading and math assessments
  • All high school EOC exams (Algebra I, English I, English II, Biology, US History)

Though each Texas STAAR test is scored differently, every test uses the same four performance levels to indicate a student's proficiency in that subject. From best to worst, these are as follows:

  • Masters Grade Level
  • Meets Grade Level
  • Approaches Grade Level
  • Did Not Meet Grade Level

To pass a STAAR test means to score in the "Approaches" score range or higher. If your score places you in the "Did Not Meet" band, then you have failed that STAAR test.

The exact score ranges will shift slightly every year depending on the test, but you can get a sense of what scores you'll need by looking at the official raw conversion tables for the most recent year.

Here's a screenshot of the 2018-19 raw score conversion table from the 8th grade April 2019 math assessment:

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As the screenshot shows, any score in the purple, blue, or green bands would be a passing STAAR test score, while any score in the red band would be a failing score. Generally speaking, you'll need to get in at least the 25th-35th percentile to pass a STAAR test.

 

How to Check Your STAAR Test Results

Every year students will receive a paper STAAR Report Card that details how well they did on their STAAR tests. For each STAAR test, the report will indicate which of the four performance levels the student meets (remember that "Approaches Grade Level" is considered passing).

This report will also contain information on percentiles (how a student did compared with all other students), progress from the previous testing year, anticipated progress and student growth, and a lexile score, which indicates the student's reading level.

This video by TEA gives both students and parents an in-depth look at the STAAR Report Card:

 

Finally, parents, students, and administrators have access to Texas Assessment, a TEA-run website that not only offers tips for helping students understand their STAAR Report Cards, but also allows you to see what questions you or your child answered on a STAAR test.

To log in, you'll need to know the student's unique access code (on their STAAR Report Card) and date of birth.

 

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Recap: So What Is the Texas STAAR Test Program?

STAAR is a Texas statewide testing program, which consists of core standardized tests given out at all public primary and secondary schools for specific grade levels. There is a different STAAR test for each subject tested. Here are the STAAR tests students must take at each grade level:

  • Grades 3-8: Reading and Mathematics
  • Grades 4 and 7: Writing
  • Grades 5 and 8: Science
  • Grade 8: Social Studies
  • High School (Grades 9-12): Algebra I, English I, English II, Biology, US History (might also be required to take Algebra II and English III, depending on district)

Students in grades 5 and 8 must pass their annual math and reading assessments in order to be able to advance to the next grade level. Similarly, high school students must pass the five STAAR tests above to graduate and receive their diploma.

A passing score on a STAAR test is any score at or above "Approaches Grade Level." If you fail a STAAR test you're required to pass, don't worry—there are three STAAR test dates every year, so you can simply retake the exam on a different administration.

You'll be able to see your STAAR scores on your annual STAAR Report Card. This hard copy report tells you how you did overall, what percentile you scored in, and other pertinent information.

And that's all there is to the STAAR test!

 

What's Next?

Trying to study for upcoming STAAR test dates? Never fear—PrepScholar is here! Check out our compilation of the best STAAR practice tests you can use in your prep.

If you're a high school student planning to take the SAT/ACT, then you'll need to know how to prepare effectively for the exam. Get tips on how to come up with an SAT study plan or ACT study plan, and read our expert guides to how to get a perfect SAT score and perfect ACT score.

Considering applying to public Texas colleges? Our guide to writing ApplyTexas essays will give you all the help you need!

 

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Hannah Muniz
About the Author

Hannah received her MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. From 2013 to 2015, she taught English in Japan via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.



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