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October 22, 2020

Texas kids shocked by scores on new math STAAR


Texas students received their STAAR reports earlier this week.

It wasn’t good news, especially for elementary and middle school students whose math skills were tested based on the state’s new mathematics curriculum, which requires children to learn and master skills and concepts TWO YEARS above their current grade level.

For those who may be unfamiliar with Texas’ public education system, you need to understand our officials are obsessed with rigor and high standards. They don’t really know what that means, but why let that get in the way of a government program? Nonetheless, our education officials won’t let Texas children get away with being stupid, so they’ve opted to eliminate that risk early by making them learn more at younger ages.

That’s why we now have kindergarteners solving math word problems, even though they can barely read and master basic addition. We have six graders learning algebra, even though the course has traditionally been taught in eighth or ninth grade. (See what kids are expected to learn in each grade.)

Texas has rigor and high standards.

Texas has no common sense.

Accelerating learning beyond a child’s developmental abilities is just damn stupid. Their brains simply have not grown enough to process these lessons, and sadly, many of the reasoning skills we’re demanding of our elementary school children don’t even develop until the age of 12. Adding this material before the brain can handle it doesn’t speed up a child’s development, it destroys the child’s spirit.

That’s why we have thousands of children who now believe they are stupid – their STAAR math scores show they answered only a fraction of the test questions correctly.

STAAR Report2
In reality, this isn’t too shabby for a kid who was forced to work two grade levels ahead.

Of course, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) isn’t saying these kids are stupid – yet.

That comes in September.

Parents received a notice this week that explains passing standards for this test will be set this summer. No one has passed or failed – yet.

Here’s what TEA said:

“Once the new passing standards are set for math, you will receive an updated report in Sept. 2015. This updated report will tell you whether your child passed the test. It will also give you additional information about your child’s performance…This information can help you and your child’s teacher identify areas where your child is doing well and areas where he or she needs additional help or support to be successful in math next year.

When you are reading this report, please keep in mind that the 2015 STAAR math tests include some concepts and skills that were taught for the first time this year. For this reason, students will not have to meet the final math passing standard this year.” (See the letter.)

In other words, your child will go on to the next grade, but if it ends up that she didn’t pass this test, she’s going to be separated from her peers so she can spend more time on math. For elementary school children, that means special tutoring groups. For middle school kids, that means they lose an elective and will be forced take a remedial math class in addition to their grade-level math class.

It’s all about rigor and high standards, y’all.

These children simply don’t measure up, and they need help.

I call BS.

These children are doing exactly how they’re supposed to be doing for their age; it’s the bureaucrats who need help for thinking that adding two years of concepts to their measurement equation will get a positive result.

Enough is enough. Our children deserve MUCH better.


Originally published June 2015

43 Comments on Texas kids shocked by scores on new math STAAR

  1. I was helping my 12 yr old grandson with math homework a few months back. Showed him how to solve the problem. He told me, we can’t do it like that. He proceeded to show me an example. What a convoluted laborious mess that turned a few simple calculations into multi step confusion. Told him to do it the way the teacher told him and I would check his answers my way.
    I also learned that cursive is no longer required. I know checks are becoming obsolete but how are they suppose to sign legal documents? Make their mark or use a thumbprint?

  2. Worked with elementary students last year as a substitute. Was amazed that they were learning math skills that I didn’t have until I was in 8th and 9th grade. What was even more amazing was that the kids had a firm grasp on the teaching and were performing at a high level. That’s obviously not the experience every where, as the above comments indicate, but I can tell you that the kids in this elementary school were killing it….

  3. All this to get them 2 grade levels ahead, but then in high school they only have to pass an Algebra 1 EOC test. What is the whole point of them all being 2 grade levels ahead then?

  4. I believe that every legislator should have to teach at least three years, one in elementary, middle and high school BEFORE they can make laws that effect the students and the teachers that work so hard to teach too these standards and grieve when a student is not able to achieve these standards. Some students just can’t do it do matter what a teacher tries and what they are made to do or loose their jobs over a ‘test’ score!

    The ones that make and promote these test (instead of what is taught in a class room that really helps children learn REAL life and history) should have to take these test themselves. They apparently do not have children or care for them. ALL KIDS DO NOT MATURE AT THE SAME RATE nor do they learn at the same pace. THEN when a child fails this test it affects them and they think they are a failure….great job to all who that promote this.

  5. THANK YOU FORMER GOVERNOR PERRY, AND PRESENT GOVERNOR ABBOTT!! I’m sure the private schools your children went to, and are going to, exempt your privileged children from all these tests.

  6. I agree with the article entirely….and I don’t even have a child in the school system….now let me explain before everyone starts criticizing me because I don’t have children in school… husband and I both own a business. Through the years we have employeed numerous teenagers and young adults…still in school, fresh out of school, or in college. We have seen a pattern in alot of them. This pattern reflects alot of the points brought to light in this article. The schools are so focused on accredation and scores for status and additional funding that they are missing the main goal for our school system….to teach and prepare children & teens to become self sufficient, productive citizens who can rationally make decisions by reasoning by the time they graduate. Unfortunately, “common sense” as well as common “reading, writing, and arithmatic” aren’t being taught in our schools today….instead replaced with nonpractical equasions that most aren’t even applicable to everyday life. Can they count back change? Can they read a minute/second hand clock? What are the 3 branches of government? sadly enough….no….most pull out their cell phone or look at a computer or a digital electronic to find the answers to two of those simple questions and have no clue where to start at answering the thrid one! When, way “back in the day” we were taught how to do it. and not by using a calculator or a 15 step process. Sadly, our children, teenagers, and young adults are being neglected by our school system and falling,more easily than ever, into the “go with the flow” mentality instead of rationally being able to make decisions by way of reasoning and “common sense”. Lets get back to the real “common core” teaching in our schools….common sense, common rationalization, and common decision making techniques!

  7. ALL government stay out of the schools. .Let the teachers and parents teach our children.. Who’s children are they anyway.. Do you love and care about the whole child.. or does the government care (they’ve never even seen my child.) Yet claim to know whats best. Long ago our parents and teachers taught our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents.. and believe me with their short education they know more about God, life, family, education than many college graduates. They could always count change back, master math, master writing, reading, believe me they know their history…and much much more.. What’s even more important they were taught how to “love to learn” so it never ended after they were finished with school..

  8. I don’t like the emphasis on testing with pencil and paper at the younger grades, but the teachers have had 2+ years of knowing what the new TEKS would be. If they didn’t figure out a way to adjust their curriculum, I blame academic deans and district coordinators for not being proactive in the change. I was shocked by how much they pushed down to lower grades, as a former math teacher and current private tutor, but the kids are capable if there is support from home. The biggest problem I see in education is parents turning over their kids’ education 100% to the school, and not being invested as a partner in their education. It takes a community to raise a child. Not just one teacher a year, or one parent.

    • Kim,

      Many of us on this thread are parents who spend hours trying to help our kids with homework. We’re involved in our schools and supportive of our teachers. Our children simply did not have the foundation he needed to tackle much of this year’s content, and we as parents couldn’t fill that learning gap. It’s been difficult for him as a suburban kid; I can’t imagine how much city and rural children may be suffering.

      It’s not about parents. Or teachers. It’s the inappropriate curriculum.

    • There is so much wrong with what you said. First of all as stated in the article some of the standards are not developmentally appropriate which means a large potion of the kids are not actually capable whether they have support from home or not…and “if they have support from home” is a big if! Not to mention, it also requires those supportive parents to understand the new standards, which many don’t. As far as schools “figuring out a way to adjust their curriculum”, last year’s students were taught and tested with last year’s standards. Are you suggesting that we should have taught our third graders two years worth of standards in one year, so that they were prepared for last year’s third grade STAAR and this year’s fourth grade STAAR? No amount of “proactivity” was going to get kids where they needed to be this year. I results to get slightly better as we tackle the learning curve of the new TEKS. Then I predict they will change them all again.

    • You’re wrong. Teachers didn’t know the curriculum until a week before the first day of school. This is when we were told we had to cover gaps that were placed there because of the new TEKS in addition to the new accelerated TEKS. because of this, I can say that overall students did pretty well considering and teachers did phenomenal.

    • When the parent can hardly figure out what the child is doing then how are they of much help! There are a lot of parents that did not finish high school or even go on to college therefore they can not help! I help mine as much as I can but the math teachers alway tell my kids that its great they got the right answer but they didn’t do it their way so therefore its incorrect! These kids don’t stand a chance on this test next year to pass it! Learning is repetition and that is something that is not happening in these classrooms now! Teachers have to teach a test all year long and there no longer is any fun in the classroom! Kids don’t feel comfortable going to school, their always anxious about something! 2 of my 3 kids got held back because of this stupid test when they passed with flying colors all year long! My kids adapted they just were not good test takers in the 3rd grade, but they were A/B honor roll students!!!! So before you go blaming parents for not helping at home maybe you should wake up! Physics were not a required course when i graduated 18 years ago and neither was calculus but they are required now and that my friend is not something I can help my kids with when it comes to homework!!! Thank you and good day!!!!!!!!

    • I agree with you 100%, it is not the school or teachers job to do 100% of the teaching. It begins and ends at home. My kids are in the Texas Public School system and have always scored above the average if not advanced or commended… While the student who sits right next to them in class fails to meet the minimum standard… Why do you think that is??? Parental support and making academics a priority at home. It’s a parents job to identify issues early and communicate with the school and their child. My children attend all conferences with me and hear what all of their teachers have to say. I watch their grades online, and deal with any issues immediately. If more parents got involved in their child’s education, more kids would be performing above standard. Wake up parents.

      • Lori,
        I am thankful your children test well. This is NOT a parenting issue. Even with our support, many children can’t grasp the concepts because they are far above a developmentally-appropriate level. It’s like forcing a 5-year-old who just learned to point her toes to dance the lead in “Swan Lake’; the kid may be able to pull off a few steps, but she isn’t old enough to have developed the muscle control (cognitive skills) she needs to execute the performance.

    • Yes, we knew the changes were coming, however with over half of our curriculum being brand new (5th grade for me) there was no way to teach both the current material and the new stuff. We were still giving a STAAR test over the old curriculum and for 5th graders this was a SSI year – you don’t pass, you don’t go to 6th. So, blaming the schools for not being proactive is not fair. We do the best we can with the hand we’re dealt!

    • It makes no sense to do a top down push of these skills. If they wanted to change the TEKS/curriculum, it should have started in kindergarten/1st grade and moved up. The 5th and 6th graders are being punished and have had 2 years of curriculum crammed down their throats. If you don’t even know what “passing” scores are, how can you say you have any validity in your testing?

  9. I have a problem with these test and believe they all need to be done away with and actually be able to teach our children instead of making them stress over test and I do not in believe punishing the teachers over these stupid test !!!

  10. This is precisely why I’m about through with letting the government educate my children. Homeschooling is looking like a far better option.

  11. My child will lose her elective because of this. She failed the Starr reading and math, but passed her classes. My problem is that she loves art, which is her elective. Why take away something she loves and might do for the rest of her life.

    Taking away something a child loves to give them a intense math or reading class, isn’t going to help at all.

    The starrs testing needs to go away.

  12. I am not from Texas, but I can tell you that.if they would focus on basic skills first they would be better off. Speed reading does not good of they teach a kid to pay attention to what they read. Solving an equation does not matter if they can not understand why or what it is used for.

  13. From personal experience, when I came to the U.S. (Texas) in 1988 after finishing 6th grade in Mexico. I was Put back in 6th Grade for my lack of knowledge of the English language. quickly I became a “Math Magician” for my knowledge in Math. Math that I was being thought in 6th grade in Texas, I had already learned in 4th grade in Mexico. I don’t consider myself as a very smart person, but I was ahead two years on my math from everybody. Didn’t lean anything new till 8th grade.


    • The problem with this is most times the low end students all end up in the same class and a teacher has no bearing on that at all. Teachers are held accountable and by the way do you know starting pay for teachers in Texas is $29,800 and it caps after 20 years of Teaching at $44,500 and they do not get a raise he rest of their teaching lives. They also have no dental, no 401k, no disability insurance and the state pays $150 towards their health insurance which for the teacher and just children is $700 a month. Something needs to change in Texas testing is out of control every time the students become successful they change the test 1/3 of all state funding goes to testing materials and test for students. Many teachers do not even use textbooks anymore because the school funding is built into that one test sad in my eyes as a retired educator and parent.

      Big cities pay more but the majority of teachers get minimum pay in Texas.

    • The test isn’t valid though and it may not have anything to do with the teacher. Students come Werth a host of issues that hinder learning that are completely out of our control. Don’t disparage good teachers just because the kids can’t perform.

  15. While I am against the STAAR and Common Core, I do feel it necessary to point out that these math standards are not beyond these kids development in terms of age. I have taught in Asia, where I saw students by the age of 6 who knew their multiplication tables. Additionally, they knew time to the minute and money values. This gave them the ability to study algebra by the fourth grade.

    The difference between the two is that these cultural expectations of a child’s education were put into the curriculum 600 years ago, where we have just begun to teach these standards and it takes time for teachers to get quality lessons on subjects developed. In addition we have students who have for the most part just had this advanced curriculum dropped on them and were not ready to make that leap.

    Metaphorically speaking I see what is happening with the results and expectations to be more like what happens when you put a frog into boiling water it leaps out of the pot, however put that same frog into a pot of water and bring it to a boil and the frog gets cooked. In my thinking we have a pot of water boiling right now and the students and/or teachers aren’t prepared for it, so there are poor results. However, if we allow the STAAR age group to maintain the current curriculum, while integrating a more challenging (for US students) curriculum in Kindergarten and First Grade, we will have greater achievement by the time these kids reach STAAR age.

    By the way, I must say I am truly disappointed in the Kindergarten curriculum at a top rated Texas district this year. The expectations were way too low. My kid was more challenged and had higher school behavior expectations at Kindercare for preschool than what he had this year in Kindergarten. It truly disturbed me.

    • And in Asia the parents ALL do their jobs and work with their children and school system instead of fight it I’m sure.

      • Actually for the most part the parents stay out of their kids education. They do meet with the teacher approximately once a year and discuss how their kid is doing and if their kid has less than an “A+,” they do reprimand their kid and continue to hire more tutors and send them to more educational centers. The sending their child to educational centers is about their only other involvement.

        However, they don’t force their kid to do their homework or help them with their studies. Somehow though the students do their work. This is probably because every kid starting in Kindergarten seems to know their career goal and exactly what they need to do to get there. I would think this starts in the home, but I think it is something done more in the schools, as I don’t see my own Asian wife dictating this to our children. The only thing I’ve seen my wife do is tell the boys what should them to do for a living as adults.

        Actually, she is shocked at the level of involvement I put in to our boys’ education.

        • Do schools in Asia make time for fine arts and physical education? Mans what does their play time look like? I’m curious if this would make a difference.

          • Some of the best musicians at world competitions are young Asians. I’m not from there, but I cannot help to notice how prevailing Asian winning such competitions has become – no one is surprised anymore. So, yes – they are good in the arts, too.

        • There are extreme cultural differences. Having visited China and several other countries and having a foreign exchange student from China, we are one of the (if not THE only) only countries in the world who educate ALL children-special needs and all. Chinese children’s culture speaks to them that they are responsible to care for their parents when their parents get old, thus an unspoken norm to strive to get a good education and job.

          You look at the norms of different socioeconomic statuses that we educate in America…it’s pretty hard to educate such a diverse population in one classroom to high standards-differentiate for the low students whose parents live off a check from the gvmt and raise themselves…to the high students whose parents want them to be pushed to the highest limit…and then give them all the exact same test and expect to hold a teacher accountable.
          Other countries, majority of them, provide two routes-one for university, one for a trade…and split them sometime in middle school.

          We cannot compare our students to those of the world when we educate every child -the poor, the orphan, the special needs, etc.

          We cannot compare our cultural norms to theirs when our government is handing out welfare to practically anyone…to the point of women having kids in order to get more pay.

          And there is a huge problem with the state changing the standards every two years. Teachers are constantly having to shift and a bigger issue is that it is leaving kids with huge gaps by the time they get to high school.

          I taught 1st grade, 3rd, 4th & Algebra 1. My students in 4th grade had all kinds of algebra prep last year. My 9th graders this year never got that algebra prep in 4th but have the highER standards put on them that eventually my 4th graders would work into. BUT the standards will change again by the time my 4th graders get up to Alg 1 and they will still have huge gaps.
          This is happening at each grade level.

          • Lynn, I agree with your points. The dumping it on the students and teachers like this is unacceptable and why in my original comment, I brought up the metaphor of the boiling frog. My point was that age isn’t a real factor in ability to an extent, it is our cultural expectations that have always been lower. I believe that the higher standards for K and 1st are alright, because these children don’t know any different when it comes to.learning. however from 2nd on up it does become an issue, so these children should be held accountable to the old standards.

            As far as special needs are concerned, I had some SPED students in my class in Asia, although they weren’t officially designated as such, as the they don’t have anything in place to determine students that are SPED or not. A majority of these students still did alright in my classes over there.

            I also taught here in TX a student population where 98% of the students came from Spanish speaking homes with many of their families on government assistance, and little family support for their child’s education. I also had several students who were those kids in the news last year that were part of the large influx of children coming across the border and had no English speaking ability. In addition, we had one of the highest SPED populations in the district. To top all of that off many of my students were reading at a 2nd grade level, only a few were on actual grade level. Despite all of these setbacks, I was still able to get 93% of my students to pass their district wide and designed end of the year History final. We ended up being in 3rd place and a close 3rd for the highest scores on that test in the district. The only two higher schools were the two wealthy, mostly white, all English speaking schools of the district.

            I forgot one other point, I don’t speak Spanish at all, yet the students were able to achieve quite a bit. It was difficult, but they did it, so it isn’t impossible to achieve such expectations.

            I also have two children who are reading way above grade level and are also above grade level in every other subject area. The reason being I don’t fully accept the argument of age designating ability. Sure, I don’t have them learning quadratic equations in K and 1st, but they are studying multiplication and division, along with other math and subject material typically designated for the higher grade levels.

    • Another big difference between education in the states & in other countries is the amount of money put into early childhood education. In European countries mothers get up to 3 years maternity leave, and pre-school is offered to ALL children regardless of their economic standing. Furthermore less than 2% of their children live at or below the poverty level.

      In the states many organizations don’t offer maternity leave, and if they do you get 6 weeks tops, unless you have a C-section and then you get 8 weeks. Pre-school is only offered to the poorest of the poor and only half a day. Kindergarten is NOT required in the state of Texas. To top all of this off 40% of our children live at or below the poverty level.

      Imagine starting school in the 1st grade, because your mom had separation anxiety about you going to Kindergarten. You’ve spent your entire life in a trailer or apartment glued to the tv or playing video games. Grown ups talk at you and not to you. You spend a great deal of time playing and taking care of your siblings. You’re mother’s stayed home with you because daycare costs more than should could make working. The only store you’ve ever been to is Wal-Mart and you call that a vacation. Then one day these kids, 40% of the average classroom & 60% of Title 1 classrooms, pop into school and are supposed to be ready to learn. They have no social skills, and have never followed a rule.

      To fix our schools – we need to work on getting kids out of poverty and provide more early childhood education. Until that happens, we are setting our kids and our teachers up for failure.

    • “A dad and a teacher” – Wonderfully said. I agree 100%. The kids CAN do it if we expect them to and prepare them early enough. My son just finished Kindergarten. He was fully capable of more. My daughter just finished third grade and only missed 3 questions total on her STARR, all subjects. But the difference for her is that expectations have always been high. She is in one of the best schools around and has been well prepared. I would certainly not expect someone who has not had the same preparation to do as well.

      • Terri,

        I am happy to learn that your children are bright and test well.

        This is not an issue of how high a parent’s standards are or well a child has been “prepared” for a standardized test; many very bright children simply do not test well, and these tests – which have never been independently audited – are not valid indicators of “intelligence” or achievement.

        No child should ever be defined or demoralized by a test.

        I am thankful your children have not faced this with STAAR; please be sympathetic to the thousands of gifted, average or special needs children who have.

    • Explain how knowing money values and time to the minute gives you the ability to do algebra? Just because some six year olds can master a skill does not make it developmentally appropriate for six year olds in general. Your claim brings up a lot of questions for me. Does every six year old in China go to school? Does every six year old go to a school that expects them to learn algebra by fourth grade? My final point is that you have to remember everything comes at a cost. In order to make every kid perform at a higher standard what things are you giving up? Applied problem solving skills? Interpersonal relationship skills? Creativity? Ability to appreciate beauty in art and music and therefore connect to the world? Maybe or maybe not but I feel like these are all things that need to be looked at when making the decision to push indiscriminately high standards on all kids.

  16. It’s embarrassing that TX leaders are this ignorant. The stress put on our kids is very real…just join my family any given weeknight during homework time. Texans need to understand that their votes count! Go to the polls and vote in the right people to reform this BS. Speak to your school boards and legislators. It’s the only way parents have a voice.

  17. 1st graders are being taught basic algebra, not just 6th graders. They expect Kindergartners to identify the name and value of all the coins and 1st graders to add them together. 1st graders are taught to tell time to the hour and 1/2 hour, but 2nd graders are taught to tell time to the minute. They took out basic 1st grade TEKS on fractions that 1st graders have never struggled with. The committee that worked to write the new TEKS had 1 elementary school teacher on it the rest of the committee was made up of secondary teachers with degrees in mathematics, but with now knowledge of early childhood development.

    • Absolutely….exactly what I said when the very first third grade STAAR had a poem discussing aging by walking along the path of life with an aging dog! Hmmmm if anyone has worked with 8-9 year olds typically this type of inferential thinking, putting ones-self in another’s shoes, understanding point of view, understanding literal and figurative thinking is atypical for this age! Sure some kids get this….but there are a lot of factors that have developed this in these very few students at this age who have this level of mature depth of thought…and developmentally MOST children this age are not ready for this! AND just because T.E.A., Texas legislatures, test creators and companies close their eyes and “will that kids can do this…OR because someone wishes upon a STAAR” it will never mean it is physiologically possible for these kids or will happen!

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