Posts Tagged ‘Assessment’

A New Math STAAR

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

Author: Fredric Noriega

Texas is set to implement the revised math standards during the 2014-2015 school year for grades kindergarten through 8. High school math teachers will implement new math standards in their courses for the following year, 2015-16. Along with the implementation of the new math standards we are going to see a very different Math STAAR than we had originally anticipated. Depending on the grade level, some of these changes are either a blessing or a curse. Here are the changes we can expect:

All new TEKS are fair game

TEA originally made the decision to only assess the “overlapping” TEKS during the first year of implementation. In other words, only those concepts and skills that could be found in both the current and revised TEKS would be assessed. This was a relief for many math teachers, especially those grade levels that are seeing a lot of new material in their standards. Many teachers, campuses and districts decided that it would be in the best interest of the students to teach material that was new  ̶  the non-overlapping standards  ̶  after the STAAR test next spring. This way students could focus on the “overlap” or assessed material and be well-prepared for the STAAR test. TEA recently announced (during the week of Feb. 17, 2014) that the STAAR exam during the first year of new TEKS implementation will focus solely on the revised standards, regardless of whether or not the content is new to the grade level. This decision was based on the fact that in certain grades there is not enough overlap between the current and new standards to use for creating an assessment. Those teachers that had planned to focus on teaching the new content after STAAR will now have to adjust their plan since students will see assessment questions based on those standards. Consider the revised math standard 5.3K: add and subtract positive rational numbers fluently. A current 4th grade student is learning how to add and subtract whole numbers. In 5th grade they will need to learn how to add/subtract fractions with common and uncommon denominators. This is a very big leap in content for students, and possibly even for the teacher.

New Testing Format

Since all new standards will be eligible on the STAAR assessment we also have new resources. TEA has made the following available:

  • Assessed Curriculum Documents. These documents identify the new Reporting Categories. New Supporting and Readiness standards are identified as well as which standards are eligible for testing.
  • Blueprints. These documents give an at-a-glance look at the reporting categories including supporting and readiness standards.  They also act as a guide in determining how many STAAR questions can be expected from each reporting category.
  • Reference Materials. These documents include formulas and conversion tables that students will be able to use on the STAAR exam.

All of these documents can be found by visiting the TEA webpage at

Calculators are required on the 8th grade STAAR

The new 8th grade standards place a strong emphasis on developing algebraic skills and, because of this, TEA has decided that students will require the use of a calculator. Many middle school campuses may only have one set of graphing calculators per math teacher, but that may not be enough to offer 1:1 calculators during testing. Some schools are planning to borrow calculators from the local high school, while other schools and districts are trying to find money in their budgets to purchase more calculators.  Another option currently under pilot for 8th grade math students for the 2014-2015 school year is to use a graphing calculator app on a tablet or non-smart phone mobile device.

Algebra 2 EOC is back

The Algebra 2 STAAR EOC assessment is going to return during the 2014-2015 school year; however, TEA is making the assessment optional; the results are only going to be used to determine college academic readiness and will not be used for accountability purposes. Note: TEA has made the assessment optional for students taking Algebra 2; however, a district could make the decision to require Algebra 2 students to take the exam.


The information here was shared by TEA at the Spring TASM meeting on Feb. 21, 2014.

Reflections from an EOC Parent, Part 4

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Author: Collections compiled from team of Education Specialists


In previous In-Sight newsletters this academic year, we have featured reflections from “EOC Parents,” or parents of current high school sophomores. These students and families have entered the new assessment system, or STAAR, as full-force as those of us working in the education profession. Last year’s freshmen, the graduating class of 2015, sit in our classrooms, speak to us in the hallways, contemplate their futures, laugh with their friends and wonder what their place is in this new system. They may or may not discuss this with family members or even have family members to discuss it with. They may or may not even be aware of the changes, implications, or consequences a certain scale score may or may not make on their class schedules, cumulative scores, or graduation. They may or may not even care – or at least give that impression.   As we ourselves navigate our way through the sea of current information, changing information and missing or delayed information as the STAAR program fully develops, we sometimes forget that these students are still young people, still teenagers.  These students still need guidance, empathy and role models that have their best interest in mind.  In our rush to “create fully functioning adults” we may inadvertently skip a step or two along the way in terms of supporting our students.


Our final reflection offers yet another glimpse into a thought or two shared by an “EOC Parent” and hopefully continues to provide us a moment’s pause to think about the ultimate end-user in this system of ours so that we put ourselves in their shoes, attempt to think as they would, and support them through the conclusion of their K-12 education careers so that they are truly “college and career ready,”  remembering always to keep more focus on the student than any one assessment or program, regardless of how demanding it may seem.


As always, identifying information has been changed or deleted but the reflection piece itself remains as intended by its author.


I think the largest concern I have with the new assessment program comes down to a personal level. We have had changes in tests before. We have had new things come through our schools from the school itself, the district, and the state. This is something that I think most of us are used to.  I would not say we all agree with the changes all of the time but it may be easy to sit back and say “ah – a new test…oh well”.  From what I can tell the intention behind the change is good but putting it into practice and some of the decisions associated with it are not so much.  As a parent I tend to wait and see. In the end will it matter? The bottom line is there will be some sort of change and this change has affected my daughter.  I am not in the education business and while I certainly support educators, I do admit that I must rely heavily on their expertise and knowledge in this area because it is their professional area and not mine. 


But my area is my daughter. I would like to think that all parents think the same way. What I am concerned about is not even so much “how this affects my daughter” (I have no control over that) as it is about the way my daughter is treated and the quality of the education she receives.  In my mind good teaching, solid learning, and respect and humanity will lead to my daughter’s success.  This is a two way street and she must do her part as well but I have seen, sadly, a real decline in what they are doing in class, how they are doing it in class, and what can only be described as misdirected efforts on the part of the school.  As I have said, we have lived through changes before…what should always be constant is treating and speaking to students with respect, providing a good solid education built on classroom trust, thinking and application and realizing that the phrase “high school student” does not have a negative connotation to it unless you impose one.  We have had such a list of reactionary decisions that really do not have anything to do with improving the quality of what happens in the school building each day. They only seem to provide another distraction…shifting the focus from where it should and could be.  I fondly think back to my high school experience and I think today’s students should as well.  Why do we want a climate where “going to school” and “learning” are the bad things and shuffling students through like some sort of warehouse is a good thing?


It is understandable that schools and school leadership need to consider the changes, plan for the changes, emphasize the importance of the changes and everything else that goes with it. But come on – don’t lose sight of what is important. I mean even my taxes have increased to accommodate what feels like more “prepping” for tests rather than showing any real difference in the climate, spirit, or actual learning on campus.


  • What is this parent really telling us? What concerns can be heard?
  • Can you identify or empathize with the parent?
  • How well do we consider those parents with additional challenges, such as language or education level barriers?
  • Can we be more purposeful in helping our communities learn and grow with us in today’s educational environment?

Reflections from an EOC Parent, Part 3

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Author:  Collections compiled from a team of Education Specialists


In each In-Sight newsletter this academic year, we feature a reflection from a parent of an “EOC student”.  Current 10th grade students have been the first to interact with the new EOC assessments and, as a result, we can learn from their experiences and those of their families.  It is also possible to unintentionally send the wrong information or share information that is not quite as clear for the person receiving it as it could be in order for it to be informative and helpful.  It can be easy to forget that our perspective and the jargon we use on a daily basis as professionals in the education business does not always translate easily to those unfamiliar with the industry’s language and this is even truer when you consider non-native English speakers and readers.  As we learn and navigate these new waters, it is also our responsibility to help others do the same; after all our goals include students owning their own learning and for families to be informed and involved.

While this installment is indeed a reflection from an EOC parent, it also happens to be a parent with a good deal of knowledge and experience within the education system.  The entry describes interactions between parent and student leading up to the implementation of this new assessment program but then goes beyond to offer a look at the data.  This is a wonderful addition as we begin to receive more data and face analysis, distribution, and clarification of it.  The pictures included come from the EOC report received by the parent.  In this case the parent’s experience allowed for easy navigation but the entry does raise the question as to whether or not all of our stakeholders truly know what this information means.  This EOC parent also added a few questions that arose as a result of looking at their student’s data.  Are we prepared to answer these types of questions?  You will also find short answers to each question included.

As always, identifying information has been changed or deleted but the reflection piece itself remains as intended by its author.



As an educator with a freshman son, I humorously referred to myself last year as an EOC Mom.  My son didn’t quite take the arrival of this new assessment as I did.  I sat him down last fall and showed him the PowerPoint posted on the Region 13 website that gave a general overview of what was going to be required of him at the end of the 2012 school year.  He didn’t seem so concerned about our little review and told me he wasn’t that worried about it.  It was a fairly typical response from an overly confident 15 year old, but he shared with me that it wasn’t that he didn’t care, but rather that he had passed all his TAKS tests in the past.  He had a reasonable point and a good history of doing fairly well in school with A’s and B’s.  I still tried to show him the released sample assessments to further expose him to the format of the test, but again he brushed it off and was less than enthusiastic to take a look.  In an effort to not be the “helicopter” parent, I backed off and decided to let him do it his way, on his own.  This was the case until about February when we started to see some of his writing assignments and noticed his writing still hadn’t improved much from the beginning of the year.  On Saturdays after he finished all of his regular homework, we would have him write. We didn’t go the route of having him write to a possible STAAR prompt, but rather held him to writing pieces of whatever he wanted with the intent of getting him to write and reflect on the revision process.  He needed help on the basics of thesis development, writing organization, sentence structure, and grammar.  This went on for about two months and we just hoped that our time working with him would help him with his writing.  So here’s how he did on the 2012 EOC Assessments:


World Geography

Algebra I

English I Reading

English I Writing


I’m obviously ecstatic that he passed all of his EOCs for his freshman year, but I have a number of questions after reading these scores.

  1. On the Biology EOC I see two areas that he appeared to struggle in: Biological Processes and Systems and Mechanisms of Genetics.  Could this impact him on the Chemistry EOC he will have to take this year or the Physics EOC his junior year?

A: Probably not.  The high school science courses are very distinct from one another and the content student expectations that will be assessed on Chemistry EOC and Physics EOC will be different.  It is important to note that much of what he was assessed on the Biology EOC was built upon in middle school.  The Grade 8 Science STAAR would be a really good indicator on how he might do on the high school Biology EOC. 


  1. On the Algebra I EOC he struggled most with Quadratic and Nonlinear Functions.  Will this impact him on the Geometry EOC or Algebra II EOC he will have to take?

A: Probably. The math courses build upon knowledge learned in previous courses.  About 40% of what is learned in Algebra I is incorporated in Geometry. Algebra II is really Algebra I + more, so 100% of what he learned in Algebra I will be cycled into the Algebra II EOC. 


  1. He knocked World Geography out of the park with Level III Advanced Academic Performance, but will he do the same for World History or U.S. History?

A: Not necessarily.  The tested high school Social Studies courses have differing student expectations per course. Much of the same process skills may be assessed on the World Geography EOC, World History EOC, and U.S. History EOC, but not necessarily the same content. 


  1. On English I Reading he had difficulty on Understanding/Analysis Across Genres: Paired Short Answer Selections.  What does this indicate for English II Reading EOC and English III Reading EOC?

A: Although this section evaluates reading, it also evaluates writing.  The paired short answer selection requires the student to compare two genres of reading.  The student then has to write a short answer response to the selection.  He will see this again on the English II and III Reading EOCs.  It is important to note that last year was the first year freshmen students in Texas were assessed in a short answer response format.


  1. Just as we anticipated, he struggled with the English I Writing EOC in comparison to the other subject areas.  It looks like there is room for improvement in Written Composition, so will he be tested like this again on the English II EOC or III EOC?

A: While he needs improvement on Literary Composition portion, he will not be tested on it again.  He will be tested again sophomore year on Expository Composition along with the newly incorporated Persuasive Composition.  On the English III Writing EOC he will have to write another Persuasive Composition and an Analytical Composition.


**An interesting aspect for further discussion on a campus level is to examine student’s scale score outcomes in comparison to the projected 2016 Final Recommended Level II Satisfactory scale scores.

This particular entry is quite comprehensive in that we are able to see a glimpse of pre-administration, actual results, and questions that came to exist after reviewing the results. This is certainly not an exhaustive list of questions that students and families may have.  They may not even be questions that some students and families think or know to ask due to concentrating more on the “How do I read this?” and the more general “So what does this mean?” type of questions. If a question isn’t directly asked does that mean it should not be answered?  Regardless, it is in our best interest to think ahead and be prepared to address potential questions and to do so in a manner that is clear and effective.


  • What is this parent really telling us; what concerns can be heard?
  • Can you identify or empathize with the parent?
  • How well do you think ________________________.
  • How well do we consider those parents with additional challenges, such as language or education level barriers?
  • Can we be more purposeful in helping our communities learn and grow with us in today’s educational environment?

Reflections from an EOC Parent, Part 2

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Author:  Collections compiled from a team of Education Specialists

 Our first InSight Newsletter for 2012-2013 introduced this new series focused on sharing voices of EOC parents with the hope that educators remember to take a moment and reflect upon the point of view held by one of education’s most important stakeholders, the parent.  As we learn and respond to our new state assessment program, we must remember to extend the line of communication and empathy beyond our campus walls. Some of our parents have experience with TAKS, some have no experiences with Texas’ assessments and most are simply trying to keep up with profession-specific jargon and various media reports in order to remain informed and make the best decisions for and with their students.

As with our first reflection, the entry shared remains as originally captured, changing only identity information.  It is important to listen to the author’s intent and emotion rather than dwell on any particular word or phrasing.  While the words themselves are chosen by just one, it is imperative to remember the sentiment is likely shared by many. By doing so we can then choose our information, sharing, discussions, and planning on the basis of the information receiver, the “end user” as it were.  Use the questions that follow the entry to guide this thinking and planning as we navigate this change and assist our stakeholders in doing the same.


“Scared, frustrated, nervous, anxious, and overwhelmed” are only a few words to describe how my daughter and I are feeling about her being an STAAR EOC student. Not only has the STAAR exam scared us from the jump, but it’s more frustrating to me as a parent to see how unprepared some of our teachers and districts really are.  

As a parent I would love to be able to sit with my district administrators and/or my child’s teacher to receive information regarding the details of being a STAAR EOC student, but if the information is not there how am I to obtain the information and ensure my EOC student all will be ok? Perhaps more trainings on the district and parent levels are needed in order to “calm” the fears of everyone involved. If not, the next round of STAAR testing will have the same amount of “panic” as it did when first administered.

 As with anything, we will come to adjust to what is required for our STAAR EOC students, but in that adjustment guidance on all levels would help with the fears and uncertainty of the districts, parents, and STAAR EOC students.


  • What is this parent really telling us; what concerns can be heard?
  • Can you identify with or empathize with the parent?
  • How well do you think ________________________?
  • How well do we consider those parents with additional challenges, such as language or education level barriers?
  • How can we be more purposeful in helping our communities learn and grow with us in today’s educational environment?

Rubrics: Out of the clinic and in to the classroom

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Jennifer Jordan-Kaszuba, Secondary Science Specialist

As a science educator, I find it interesting when a process used in science transitions to the mainstream.  So when I discovered that rubrics were originally used to classify diseases and have only been part of the educational lexicon since the 1970s, I had to check this out.  I found some diseases are not diagnosed based on a rubric, but are straightforward tests as we might expect.  You either have the bacteria that causes strep throat or you don’t.  This is analogous to a multiple-choice exam: you either get the correct answer or you don’t.  But some diseases and disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, are diagnosed based on a set of criteria and a point system. (Just so you know, if more than 10 joints are involved and at least one of those is a small joint, you get more points, which in this case is not a good thing and means you are moving toward a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.)  In order for doctors to make an objective diagnosis and to ensure that everyone agrees on a diagnosis, they use rubrics.  Rubrics are used in the classroom for similar reasons.


How can rubrics be used?

Rubrics are used in the classroom to evaluate performance assessments so that students are judged as objectively as possible.  Rubrics should also be used for student goal setting and self-assessment (Kingore, 2007).  Students should be provided a copy of the rubric at the same time an assignment is given so they can set a goal for the grade they want to achieve. Students can self-assess their progress during the time given for creation, and before submission of their finished product, to compare their performance to their own goal.


What makes a rubric different from a checklist?

Rubrics are not just checklists listing requirements for assignments.  Instead, rubrics provide descriptors of performance at various levels for a learning task.  Rubrics include information regarding the expected quality of the work in addition to the quantity.  Rubrics provide students and teachers alike with a scoring guide distinguishing exceptional work from satisfactory work, as well as satisfactory work from unsatisfactory work.  Providing students with clear expectations allows them to assume responsibility for their own learning and performance.


How do I create a rubric?

Ideally a rubric already exists that you can modify to fit your need. (Try searching the Internet for the topic you will be teaching and include the word rubric. There were 731,000 + results for the search “Element Project Rubric.”) Although you don’t always need to start from scratch, let’s assume you are starting anew.  There are multiple types of rubrics, including generic and task specific.  A generic rubric is one which can be applied across a range of different tasks: for example, a rubric that judges an oral presentation regardless of the content of the presentation.  Task-specific rubrics are just that, specific to the project or task the students are being asked to complete.  You can combine a generic rubric with a task-specific one as needed.  For example, if students were being asked to complete an element project and present to the class about their element, we could use a generic rubric for the oral performance portion and a task-specific rubric to ensure they include all of the information about their element that is required.

But how do we know what is required?  This is what we must first determine.  Start by listing all the aspects of the assigned task that will be assessed.  Look at the TEKS to determine the content and/or skills that need to be included.  Next, take your list and determine which of these are non-negotiable.  For example, an element project might include basic properties of the element, history of the discovery of the element, current uses of the element, a model, a poster and a sample of the element.  However, the student who researches uranium will not be likely to provide a sample, so that component may have to be eliminated from the list.  Basic properties, the history of the element, and current uses of the element may be non-negotiables, while the delivery method of poster versus a PowerPoint could be negotiable, with students deciding on their delivery method.  Once we have a list of the components we want to include as non-negotiables, we must prioritize and select the 3-5 elements that define a quality performance.

Next we must decide how many performance levels to use and how to define them.  According to the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) at the University of Minnesota, an even number of performance levels is preferable so that the middle level does not become a catch all.  Having an even number of levels forces you to make a decision about quality and place it above or below average.  Let’s use four levels and call them Exemplary, Excellent, Acceptable and Unacceptable.  For ease in tracking points numerically, we will number them 4, 3, 2, and 1.  If desired, you can also have a “not attempted” category worth 0 points.  Next, we need to look at each of our components individually and define the performance at each level.  Start with the highest level (Exemplary) and determine what is required.  For example, we might expect a student to include basic properties including atomic weight, atomic number, phase at standard temperature and pressure and number of valence electrons.  Our excellent category might state that three out of the four are included; acceptable might be two out of four; and unacceptable might be one out of four.  This example is straightforward but demonstrates that the difference between a 4 and a 3 should be the same as a difference between a 2 and a 1.

Once you have written all of your statements, revisit them and make sure all of the desired components are addressed in each level.  This is the ideal time to discuss your performance task and rubric with a co-worker, even if they are not in the same subject area, to quality check for clarity.  Another way to evaluate your rubric is to carry out the task yourself and see where you would rank on each criterion; this will help you reevaluate and strengthen your criteria as necessary.  Once you have created and used a rubric with your students, reflect back and make changes to strengthen the rubric for the following task or year.

Some questions to ask yourself as you create rubrics include:

  • Does my rubric reflect performance at different levels of achievement?
  • Are the criteria for each level specific enough that students know what is expected of them?  Are descriptors worded so they are examples of what to do to achieve a given level?
  • Will I, as the teacher, be able to objectively grade this assignment?
  • Should one criterion be weighted more given the TEKS being addressed?
  • Do I need to differentiate the rubric for different levels of learners?
  • Does my rubric fit on one page to avoid intimidating students?




Evaluation Process: Rubrics, Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition, (accessed October 8, 2012).


The 2010 ACR-AULAR classification criteria for rheumatoid arthritis, American College of Rheumatology,, (accessed October 8, 2012).

Reflections from an EOC Parent, Part 1

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Author:  Collections compiled from a team of Education Specialists

Educators in the state of Texas have undergone quite a few transitions as of late, none-the-least of which was the implementation of STAAR, the new state assessment program.  STAAR arrived with its own unique set of acronyms, characteristics, rules, guidelines, training modules, passing labels and much more. The implications from STAAR reach to graduation plans, course selections, grade point averages, instruction and even course grades (sooner or later).  Along with all of these new details surrounding the assessment itself, we can also add the need to learn new grade level or course TEKS; to revisit the TEKS to be sure our teaching is at the proper depth and complexity; to implement the ELPS and CCRS; to adjust to changes in Special Education, 504, local policy and perhaps even the most pressing: moving into a new classroom. No one is arguing that all of this comes easily; on the contrary, we readily admit our profession can seem overwhelming at times and changes can be clear as mud.  However, as professionals we approach these changes armed with our educational background, varied resources and profession-specific jargon.

Now, let’s consider our parents. 

As we throw around language such as allowable accommodations, EOC, AYP, TEKS, Readiness and Supporting standards, cumulative scores, scale scores, minimum scores, Advanced Performance and myriad other related terms, we sometimes even confuse ourselves. After all, it is similar to learning a new language.  With this in mind, we must be that much more diligent in helping our students and parents understand what is going on and what it means for THEM.

While it takes a village to raise a child, when it comes right down to it most parents, understandably so, are concerned with THEIR child.  Have you found yourself on the delivery side of an explanation sounding something like this yet?

“Well, your student met minimum… but no, that does not mean that they passed the EOC.  No, they are not required to retake the exam even though they did not pass the exam.  However, they may need to retake it in two years. Yes, meeting minimum can be beneficial because if they do well on the next two EOC exams and reach an appropriate cumulative scale score they will not have to retake this exam.  The scale score, however, for your eldest child is this value but your scale score for your next child is actually going to be this. “

Similar conversations will play out in many different ways for many different students and many different circumstances.  Do you remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books? We all have the best of intentions and are doing our very best to communicate relevant information in a timely fashion.   In doing so, however, are we certain we aren’t presenting based upon what WE know and the language WE use in our profession more than what may actually be received by those without the same background?

With this in mind, we wondered what the unique point of view of a 1st time EOC parent might be.  This InSight series, “Reflections from an EOC Parent,” aims to offer a glimpse into the minds of those outside of our daily jargon. This, in turn, may offer some insight to help us guide our communication as well as travel this path and learn together.  While all identifying names and institutions have been altered to protect the author’s anonymity, the pure reflection remains the same.  Additionally, the length of the article will vary as a result of the actual parent submissions. Here is the first of our parent reflections on STAAR.

“Initially, I didn’t think that the STAAR/EOC changes this year would impact my family any differently than state testing has in the past. However it did and upon reflection, we are left with question and concern.

First, let me share that my family is made up of three teenage kids. Our oldest is a girl and will be a senior for the year 12-13. We have two 15 year old twin boys who will be sophomores for the year 12-13. With this dynamic, we get to experience navigating school through our daughter two years prior to preparing our sons for what is to be expected. This has been to everyone’s benefit as our daughter is pretty responsible and motivated in school. She doesn’t need a lot of parental guidance to meet the demands of a teenage student. She is for the most part independent. The same cannot be stated for the boys. They are much more reliant on outside support from us as parents to make sure that they are meeting all of the school requirements to be a good student. Due to this pattern, we as parents try our best to anticipate the needs of the boys. Another note worth knowing is that my daughter and one of the twins do very well on the state assessments. However, the other twin struggles in his classes as well as on the state assessments. He skims by most of the state passing criteria in most subjects and has failed the state math (TAKS) every year since 5th grade. He finally passed the math TAKS his 8th grade year on the 2nd attempt.

This year was more difficult because we were not able to follow the lead that our daughter had experienced in STAAR/EOC/TAKS. Since the changes were made after her, we didn’t know what to expect, resulting in more confusion than usual and less ability to support the boys from a parental perspective. The school and district have provided information about the STAAR/EOC assessments on their web pages and through email. However, these are usually copy and paste narratives from TEA or links to the TEA information. This is not “parent friendly” reading in my opinion. When we ask our boys what they know, it is very difficult for them to share any information with us outside of… “I will be taking a test in Math.” They say they were told that the tests were going to be more difficult and they would have to solve more multi-step problems. As far as being able to help the boys study, we were at a disadvantage. We had no way to figure out what they needed to study and what they didn’t. Benchmark tests results were not shared with us (that may be because the boys didn’t share them) so we didn’t know where to spend any study focus. At this point we were left to trust that the school and the teachers were making sure things were in place at school. When I would call and visit to discuss extra tutoring opportunities for the twin that struggles and needed more, I was given dates for\ the week prior to the tests. Since we knew that he needed more than that, we had him tutored privately after school once a week for the entire 2nd semester. I had to come up with my own curriculum of study that I aligned to the TEKs that I knew he would be tested on.

Frustration grew as we quickly figured out that the delay in test results would not be available until the last week of school and in some subjects after school was out. This is extremely difficult for a family because it impacts summer plans that may be interrupted by the potential of summer school, test study sessions, or test retakes. Not to mention, we won’t know if a student who doesn’t pass the STAAR or EOC could be promoted to the next grade. All of this was left up in the air causing anxiety and stress for a child that already finds school frustrating. We received a letter in the mail June 10th with test results for all three kids. Our daughter and one twin did very well. The other twin PASSED the math test. YAY!!! However, he did not pass the reading or geography tests. He failed two out of four tests. That letter also gave us a study session date for each test he needed to retake as well as dates for the test retake. We are still waiting to hear if he passed those test on his second attempt.

My perspective as a parent is that if all three of my children where typical learners, we would have felt that the experience of STAAR/EOC change was not significant. However, we cannot say the same for my son who is a struggling learner. It has been confusing and frustrating trying to make sure we provide what he needs to succeed in school. Even with a twin who experiences everything at the same time as he does, we are still left with questions. There were many times when I would ask questions and the school would respond with, “This is all new and we are learning the processes as we go.” Don’t get me wrong, they are very kind and want to help my son, but it is difficult when even they are not informed very efficiently. The last conversation that I had with the school is that my son will in fact be promoted to sophomore status and will not have to retake courses. However, they also stated that this can only happen this year because the test is new and the district approved promotion of failures. It is anticipated that will change starting next year.

I plan to continue to learn as much as I can about the processes of EOC so that I can provide the support my children need. I want to be clear that I am an advocate of state standards and assessments. I think they are worthy and important. I think we are on our way to creating an assessment system that works, but we are not there yet. It seems to me that the system is working for the average and above average students, but our students at risk and struggling learners are at a real disadvantage. AYP is more informative in my opinion and I would like to see more emphasis and attention in that area.” (Parent reflection, received July, 2012)

  • What is this parent really telling us?
  • Can you identify or empathize with the parent?
  • How well do we consider those parents with additional challenges, such as language or education level barriers?
  • Can we be more purposeful in helping our communities learn and grow with us in today’s educational environment?

Managing e-Portfolios

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Author:  Juan Orozco, Instructional Technology Specialist

Personal e-portfolios have been widely used at the university level for assessment, for presentations and to showcase student accomplishments. Recently, there has also been a rise in the use of personal e-portfolios at the K-12 level. Consider the following sixth grade standard:

6) Technology operations and concepts. The student uses technology concepts, systems, and operations as appropriate for a project. The student is expected to:

6Hvi. collect and organize student-created products to build an individual portfolio.


According to Lorenzo & Ittelson (2005a) “a student e-portfolio, can be used to showcase accomplishments and give students an audience for reflection and feedback.” They describe the six major functions of e-portfolios as being:

  1. Documentation of student learning
  2. Course and educational planning
  3. Evaluation of the course itself
  4. Future job opportunities artifacts
  5. Performance evaluation of content
  6. Program development

Barrett (1997) believes that the following elements should be incorporated in any portfolio, either traditional or electronic:

  • Learning goals should be clear.
  • Criteria for the selected materials should be transparent.
  • Products should be selected by the student and teacher.
  • Feedback is essential.
  • Student reflection is needed.
  • Exemplar work should be included.

It is worth noting that the same e-portfolio can meet the needs of a diverse group of individuals viewing the same content. Also, now with the advancements of some of the e-portfolio applications, these tools can permit varying degrees of audience access, which gives the creator of these learning artifacts great flexibility for distribution.

There are many tools on the web that can be used to house and manage an e-portfolio. One such tool is “My ePortfolio” which is a component of Project Share. The essential elements to consider when evaluating an e-portfolio tool are: accessibility, portability and distribution capability. Other considerations should be in compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and other state and federal laws, as well as in compliance with district policies.  These considerations should be a part of the conversation when selecting any e-portfolio tool.

When considering the elements above, I can see why Project Share’s “My ePortfolio” is slowly becoming Texas teachers’ e-portfolio choice. One of the best things about this service is that it offers a lifetime personal account. Also, the service has the ability to send one link to your e-portfolio and it incorporates “Access Keys,” which limit access only to the content you wish to share. This goes a long way towards protecting students. Other tools available in “My ePortfolio” are the “Content Repository,” which has every New York Times article since 1851 housed within its database, and the “OnTRACK” online course content, which can be used to supplement and enrich a student’s educational experience. Having access to such rich educational content and the ability to incorporate these learning tools into the student’s e-portfolio support the diverse learning needs of our students. The Texas Educational Agency is to be commended for making this powerful tool available for free to all Texas students and teachers.   

If you would like to hear more about “My ePortfolio,” or some of the other features that are a part of Project Share, feel free to contact Instructional Technology here at ESC Region XIII, or email You can also register for free to the Project Share: ePortfolio video series (SU1224505) to learn more.



E.R. Cohn, and B.J. Hibbitts. “Beyond the electronic portfolio: a lifetime personal web space,” Educause Quarterly, 27, no. 4 (2004), accessed July 22, 2012,


G. Lorenzo, & J. Ittelson, J.” An overview of e-portfolios,” EduCause Learning Initiative Paper 1 (2005, July).


H. C. Barrett, “Collaborative planning for electronic portfolios: Asking strategic questions.” Last modified 1997,


“OnTRACK for College Readiness,” Institute for Public School Initiatives, last modified 2010,



M. Ramirez,  “Ferpa and student work: Considerations for electronic theses and dissertations,” The Magazine of Digital Library Research, January 2010, accessed July 20, 2012,






Appraisals and Walkthroughs: Considertions for This Point in the Year

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Now that we have had a great start to our school year, what have you been doing for your teachers and their appraisals?  At this point you and the other appraisers should have completed multiple walkthroughs for every teacher on campus.  Formal appraisals should be well underway, along with help for your teachers who have been identified as needing more assistance.  As the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) approaches, what do you need to look for in the classroom to insure success?

  • Look for student engagement.  Are students authentically engaged, compliant, or not engaged in the lesson?  Know what each level of engagement looks like before entering the classroom.
  • Listen to the questioning and discussions in the classroom.  Are high level questions and answers routinely being use by both teacher and students? Are students justifying their responses? Are teachers giving support for use of academic language?  (For example, are they providing sentence stems such as “The most important thing about _____ is_____ because _________.” Or “_________ is not an example of ___________ because it doesn’t have ________.”)
  • What evidence do you see of adjustment to instruction based on what
  • When you view weekly lesson plans, are they aligned with the state standards, and are you seeing that same alignment in the classroom instruction?
  • Do the teachers know what you are looking for in the classroom?  Make sure they know up front, and then let them know when you are and aren’t seeing it.

Of course, just because the formal appraisal has been completed, your support for the teachers is not finished.  Looking for best practices by means of consistent walkthroughs in every classroom on campus will occur throughout the school year.