By Chris McGuinness
Killeen Daily Herald

The Killeen Independent School District Board of Trustees on Tuesday grappled with the realities staff and students will face this year as a result of new state testing standards.

KISD Chief Academic Officer Diana Miller and Deputy Superintendent Bobby Ott presented information to the board regarding how the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) would affect policies and graduation requirements in the district.

Passed as part of Texas House Bill 3, the requirements of STAAR will alter everything from the kinds of tests students will take at the end of the year to how their final grades and credits for graduation will be calculated.

“There are a lot of implications,” Ott said.

The STAAR goes into effect for grades three through nine this year and replaces the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test.

High school students will be most affected by the implementation of STAAR, because it will require them to take one individual test per course as opposed to one grade-level test.

While students in the third though eighth grades will continue to take one grade-level test at the end of each year, high school students could take up to 12 tests between their freshman and junior years.

Miller said there will be three end-of-course assessments each in the areas of math, English, science and social studies.

Miller said STAAR tests will be more rigorous than TAKS tests and will be aligned to “college-ready” standards.

“It’s much more advanced than the current system,” Miller said.

The law also will require that end-of-course tests count toward 15 percent of a student’s final grade and must be tied to credit.

Miller and Ott produced a draft of a policy that would count a student’s two semester grade averages as 85 percent of their final grade, with the end-of-course assessments making up the remaining score.

The law also requires that school districts allow students to retake the STAAR tests at any time. The draft sets the requirement that a retake score would count only if it brought up a student’s final grade high enough to earn credit for the course.

“Could you imagine recalculating over and over again after a student had already received credit?” Ott said.

The transition between the TAKS and the STAAR looks to be a complicated one, and raised many questions among the trustees and district administrators.

Complicating matters further is the fact that the state has not yet set what scores students will need to pass the assessments, meaning the district cannot calculate how the scores will be translated to the number that will make up the 15 percent of students’ final grades. Miller said the standards are supposed to be set in February.

Alice Page, a Harker Heights High School math teacher and president of the Killeen Chapter of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, said she was worried because schools will have to administer both the old and new tests to different students this year.

Miller and Ott said only students in grades three through nine will take STAAR tests this school year. The old test will be phased out over the next four school years.

Despite her concerns, Page said she thought the STAAR’s requirement that all ninth-grade students pass in order to graduate would encourage students to take the test seriously.

In addition to discussing the requirements of the STAAR, the trustees also voted to accept an architect for the construction of new science labs for some of the district’s high schools.

Also, Bellaire Elementary teacher Jane Apodaca was recognized as teacher of the year by the Education Service Center Region 12.