Teaching to TEKS Research Standards in the Classroom

Instructor: Tiffany Price

Tiffany has many years of classroom teaching experience and has a masters degree in Educational Leadership.

In this lesson, we will discuss what the Texas Education Agency expects of students grades three through eight. We will also look into the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills and breakdown the assessments created by the TEA to analyze student achievement.

As educators, parents, and members of our community, we all know the stress and magnitude of testing season. We work all year to prepare our students to do well, especially for fifth- or eighth-grade math and reading students. These tests, in particular, are a part of the Student Success Initiatives, or SSI. This program was put in place to emphasize and hone every student's preparedness in math and reading. Students must pass the fifth-grade math and reading tests to be promoted to the next grade, just as students must pass the eighth-grade math and reading tests to go on to the ninth grade. Students are also tested in Science and Social Studies, but they are not high-stakes tests.

The STAAR test is meant to test students at a higher level of complexity and depth than previous state tests. The TEA is consistently motivating and pushing our students and teachers to add more value to the educational experience at the state level. The TEKS, Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills are the set of concepts that the state assigns for each grade level to learn. They are grouped into two categories: readiness standards and supporting standards. Readiness standards are key to success in the current grade, while supporting standards are reinforced in the current grade and may be emphasized in future grades.

The theme of the STAAR test is college and career readiness, meaning that after graduating, students should be fully prepared for the next step in their lives, whether they are going to college or work. The standards have a bent toward real-world application and synthesis, which is the highest form of learning and offers the most value after high school. The STAAR test was introduced during the 2011-2012 school year, and the TEKS have been re-written with more rigor. Let's compare standards and questions from the TAAS test over 15 years ago and recent questions from the STAAR test. We will see just how much more rigorous the tests are now than they used to be.

Below is an eighth-grade science TEKS from both the 1998 TAAS test and the current STAAR test:

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The TEKS above is concerning matter and energy, as it applies to atoms. The purple bolded words highlight the similarities between the two TEKS, but you can also see how much more the 2011 TEKS require. In addition to being required to know the structure, electrical charge, and masses of atoms, students must know the location of protons in the nucleus and electrons in the electron cloud. This additional information adds an entirely new dimension to teaching matter and energy with new vocabulary and concepts.

Let's take a look at two sample test questions. The first is from the eighth-grade science test in 1998 and the second from the 2015 fifth-grade science test.

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