ROCKWALL / HEATH (January 28, 2014) While most states are transitioning to the national Common Core standardized tests,Texas parents are faced with helping their children succeed at the STAAR (State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness.) STAAR is more difficult than TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills), which has been the standard up till now.
Two of the main differences between TAKS and STAAR are that STAAR has a greater emphasis on analytical skills, and it adds the additional pressure of being a timed test. In past standardized tests, computational skills were a larger portion of the assessment process. Most of the STAAR questions are in the form of problem solving questions. In fact a significantly larger portion of the questions require multi-step reasoning, an ability to weed out unnecessary information, and drawing conclusions about what to do with the information that is important.
Children in the lower grades will experience an easier transition to STAAR since the skills necessary to perform well will be emphasized during their elementary years. Parents of younger children can help by providing supplemental materials from local retail outlets such as Mardel’s and Half Price Books. They have a wealth of good material for all ages that help develop critical thinking and analytical skills. You can help them around the house by asking questions that require thought rather than simple “yes” or “no” answers. When going to McDonald’s or Chic-Fil-A, ask your child(ren) to figure out how much all items will cost, how much change they would get, or the difference in price of the various items ordered. Exercises like these not only require them to think, but can help them to learn the usefulness of math.
The internet is a rich source of materials to help children prepare for the STAAR. Simply Google “STAAR help” and you will get thousands of pages to check out. An internet search on “math help” will also give parents a large selection of supplemental education resources to choose from. Additionally, your child’s school will be offering after school help and practice tests so that your child can get a feel for the makeup of the STAAR tests.
A final note…if you are concerned about your child’s performance with the STAAR tests this spring, remember you are not alone. It is impacting everyone, including teachers and school administrators. They want your child to succeed as much as you do. There is always debate about how best to improve our children’s performance in school, but there is no doubt that we all need to work together to make it happen.