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STAAR shakes up teaching methods statewide

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TWC News: STAAR shakes up teaching methods statewide
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(Part Two) A fifth version of standardized testing will be introduced to students statewide this year.

During the upcoming school year, students will transition standardized testing from Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) to State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR). It's a change that will include rigorous questions and finals-like exams for high school students.

Abby Siedenstrang is a teacher at Manor High School. She’s ready for her students and the changes in store for them this year.

The students will be tested on what they learn in a new way as school districts begin the transition from the TAKS to the STAAR. The change will be most prominent in high schools where ninth, tenth and eleventh graders will have to pass a total of 12 End of Course Assessments (EOCs) to graduate.

The shift in exams is largely why Manor High School is adopting a trimester schedule for the first time this year. Students will take five courses every 12 weeks.

Teachers believe they’ll have more a time to go in-depth in the subjects of math, science, english and social studies.

"It gives them a longer time in the classroom. It also allows us to continue to monitor their progress so that we can catch any at-risk students,” Siedenstrang said.

This year's sophomores and juniors will still take TAKS, but incoming freshman will take EOCs.

Manor High School created a special freshman academy, sectioning the students away from the rest of the school to help them focus on the new curriculum.

The state began integrating new curriculum standards into classrooms in 2009 in preparation for the change in testing.

Starting in the third grade, students will take STAAR the last two weeks of class.

“It’s the same number of problems, but to solve it is going to take more thinking and more steps to figure out how to get the right answer,” Patton Elementary Principal Alan Stevens said.

Stevens said teachers are ready to make sure students can arrive at answers on their own.

STAAR will include fewer multiple choice questions, and for the first time in Texas history, the standardized test will be timed. Students will have four hours to complete the test.

But elementary school teacher Kelly Spears said the students should be well prepared for this change.

“Other situations in the classroom are timed, so timing is not necessarily something that is new. It’ll be a matter of how it’s taught and how they’re introduced to it,” she said.

The new style of testing will also result in a new formula for the state’s assessment of school ratings.

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