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Schools across Texas are in for a big shift following the redesign of the state’s standardized testing system along with an update to its school accountability rating system.

Among the changes planned for this year’s round of STAAR, or State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, testing are pivoting from a paper test to a digital exam, different forms of questions, and a new testing platform. The system used by the Texas Education Agency, which rates schools based on the results of the STAAR exam, has also been altered.

STAAR testing in English, science, and math will occur in Burnet from April 26-May 10. In Marble Falls, testing begins April 25 and ends May 9. The statewide window is April 18-May 12.

Burnet Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Keith McBurnett is not a fan of standardized testing and disagrees with the changes.

“Burnet CISD believes standardized testing should inform instruction in the classroom and not be a major, or the only, factor in determining how our students and schools are performing,” he said in a media statement. “An overemphasis on standardized testing puts too much pressure on students and teachers and does not account for all that goes into what makes a school.”

Before the shift in the state’s rating system, districts could receive an A rating if 60 percent of its students were deemed ready for college or a career. Now, the TEA has moved the threshold to 88 percent.

McBurnett believes the new system fails to represent all aspects of student academic success and will “likely cause lower ratings across the state.”

“Burnet CISD supports real-time assessments that inform instruction, measure individual progress, and serve as one of multiple measures reflecting a student’s entire educational experience,” he said. “In addition, we support adding indicators that provide a more accurate depiction of life in our schools — from academic achievement, extracurricular activities, enrichment programs, social-emotional learning, and more — giving parents a better understanding of what is taking place and working well in a child’s school.”

Marble Falls Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Jeff Gasaway described a similar view on the state’s evolving rating system.

“I think one of the things that is a struggle with our state testing model is that, many times, school districts are struggling to really get a good grasp on how to be successful,” he said. “Once they start getting successful, many times, we see the goal posts are moved, and, all of a sudden, we’re having it redesigned or the passing standards change. That can be very difficult and hard to communicate to our community.”

While Gasaway agreed that the changes could impact the district, the superintendent remains confident MFISD will receive a strong rating from the TEA because of the work the district has done to prepare for the new STAAR testing policies, such as digital assessments.

“We actually made a move, about two years ago, where we started introducing online testing,” he said. “We’re prepared to take on that challenge versus other districts, who may not have the technology or the bandwidth to support a move like that.”

Either way, the new changes are another example of state legislation affecting public education, Gasaway said.

“It’s interesting that we live in a state that really values the philosophy of local control, yet we have state legislators that will overreach and not listen to experts on topics that affect public education,” he said. “I think in today’s world, we would be wise to listen to those that are the experts in particular areas to know what the challenges are and to be able to address whatever the concern is.”

nathan@thepicayune.com