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Another year of STAAR Testing: Measure What Matters work continues

April 10, 2024  

The following update was sent out to our Texas Voices Campaign supporters via email recently…

On April 9, students across Texas will once again begin taking the STAAR test. Raise Your Hand Texas believes our students and our public schools are more than one test on one day–and our accountability system needs to reflect this. As we begin another round of STAAR testing, it’s a good time to check in about the progress of our Measure What Matters campaign to build a better accountability system thus far and discuss what lies ahead. 

Looking Back

During the last legislative session, the Texas House passed HB 4402 with an overwhelming show of support: the final vote count was 128-17 in support of the bill. Thousands of you called and emailed your House members in support of the bill, building on the work that thousands more of you did to meet with your colleagues and community members over the course of 2021 and 2022 to inform and build support for the Measure What Matters campaign. We should be proud that we passed a bill with a ‘centennial vote’–100 or more yes’s–in its very first session. 

Yet, it was not enough. Like school funding and teacher pay, accountability reform was left undone by the 88th legislature as controversial attempts to pass a school voucher program prevented progress on other pressing education issues. We know that our A-F accountability system that grades the majority of Texas campuses entirely on their students’ STAAR scores distorts incentives to make sure that students have the core skills they need–both academic and social–to succeed in the 21st century workforce and contribute to their communities. We know that it distorts the picture of ‘how schools are doing’ and fails to give parents, educators, and lawmakers meaningful information about what’s going well on a campus and what needs attention. Our efforts to build a better accountability system will continue in 2025 as the 89th legislative session begins. 

What is Happening Now

The larger context for accountability reform is also shifting. Over 100 school districts have now joined a lawsuit against the Texas Education Agency protesting the abrupt timing of changes to how college, career, and military readiness (CCMR) scores are calculated. As a result, the courts have frozen 2023 accountability ratings. Meanwhile, AI-powered grading systems and a new five-point rubric for writing samples led to skyrocketing numbers of students receiving a ‘0’ on their written responses, an issue that has yet to be fully explained. While CCMR calculations and the role of AI in grading are not part of the Measure What Matters campaign, both point to underlying realities that are cause for concern: power concentrated in the Texas Education Agency that allows school accountability labels to be changed with the stroke of a pen or the completion of a keystroke. Texans deserve more out of our public school accountability system, with robust academic indicators that go above and beyond the STAAR test and are not constantly moving the finish line on our students and the A-F letter grades represented by those tests. These changes are difficult to explain to lay observers and disconnected from the realities of what happens in a school building.

How to Stay Involved

Despite its broad popularity and commonsense approach, and because of its scale and complexity, accountability reform continues to be a significant political lift. We continue to need your help to advance Measure What Matters campaign goals. Here are three simple steps you can take this STAAR season in April 2024: 

  • Engage your network: Share our social media posts about STAAR and our accountability system in the coming weeks.
  • Contact your lawmakers: There is never a bad time to let your House member and Senator know how you feel about an issue. Use our ‘Who Represent Me?’ tool to find your legislators, and email them to say this is an issue you want them to address in the 89th legislative session. 
  • Meet with your regional advocacy director: Our ‘Who Represents Me?’ tool will also show you your Raise Your Hand Texas regional advocacy director. Reach out to them for coffee or a phone call to learn more about the local network of public education advocates that they’re building and learn how you can be involved. 

Making big legislative change takes all of us. Thank you for being partners in our work to build a public education system that supports and grows each and every student in our Texas schools.

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