* Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.
Passing rates on the statewide standardized exam known as STAAR have barely changed among fifth- and eighth-graders, newly released testing results show. They may be viewed as an improvement, however, given this year’s higher passing standards.
Results on fifth- and eighth-grade reading and math exams administered this spring, released Friday by the Texas Education Agency, show performance shifted up or down from last year by a few percentage points.
On reading exams, 75 percent of fifth-graders passed, compared to 78 percent last school year. This year’s eighth-graders improved slightly, with 82 percent passing reading exams this year compared to 78 percent last school year.
On math exams, this year’s fifth-graders performed the same as last year’s, with 79 percent passing. Seventy-three percent of eighth-graders passed their math exams, down from 75 percent last year.
Fifth- and eighth-graders can be held back if they don’t pass their STAAR exams. Those who failed will have a chance to retest in May and June. If they still can’t pass, a special committee can promote them to the next grade as long as it votes unanimously.
The testing results come amid mounting reservations about the accuracy of the STAAR scores.
In March, technical glitches impacted more than 14,000 computerized STAAR exams, causing students to lose answers. (Some also were given the wrong test.) The state is not requiring districts to retest students but has said they should use other factors to decide whether to promote fifth- and eighth-grade students to the next grade.
The Lewisville Independent School District has since discovered that high school end-of-course exams administered in December were scored incorrectly.
And the Dallas Morning News reported this week that nearly 50 Houston-area superintendents have complained to the state about STAAR testing problems, including tests being sent to a church instead of a school.