The STAAR is Born, Thanks to Teachers

Learn more about William McKenzie.
William McKenzie
Senior Editorial Advisor
George W. Bush Institute

An overview of the process used to build the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exam.

Some teachers and parents are convinced that state standardized tests are created quickly and for the sole purpose of making money with a lack of input from education experts.  In reality, tests are the product of a time intensive creation and review process by psychometricians, state agency experts, curriculum specialists, district superintendents, and teachers 

Yes, teachers gather each year  to review and write questions that could appear on the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exams in the future.  

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) posts an application online for educators who want to become part of a STAAR question review panel. A school administrator can also nominate a teacher to participate. The agency selects teachers from the pool based upon their expertise in a subject, grade level, and experience in teaching. The agency prioritizes selecting teachers from all over Texas in districts that are representative of the state’s students.

Once selected, the teachers are assigned to teams based upon their subject expertise.   Those teams are about 20 members, and also include experts from the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the STAAR exam, and TEA subject experts.

The group then reviews every potential question drafted for the exam – which are also checked to ensure that they align to state standards, aka TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills).

The teams discuss each question at length. Sometimes, the group will accept or discard the item automatically. Other times, the question will be reworded, and put into the test bank for the state and ETS officials to consider including in the STAAR exam.  A consensus is required to move a question forward. If the educators cannot agree, the question is rejected.  

Approved items are then field tested with students. If those field tests show that the questions are fair for all groups of students, then the items become eligible for a STAAR exam over the next three years.

Texas also recently created a summer institute that trains teachers to write questions, not just to review them.

The bottom line: In Texas, those closest to daily instruction play a significant role in developing the state exam. That makes good sense and it is good practice.