In response to the 1/14/2016 post, “Reasonable Accountability – A Primer for the Texas Legislator,” a reader asks:


I am interested in what you base the 75% standard for passing. Your use of the term “mastery” is relative. This is extraordinarily high especially for assessments such as 3rd grade reading. At the state level, only 77% of students passed at the phase 1 standard which was 50%. Perhaps the 75% passing standard would be appropriate if the assessments were appropriate for the grade levels or courses. Run the 3rd grade reading passages through a readability test. They are not written on a 3rd grade reading level, but more like 5 or 6th grade level.

SC Response Let’s start with some presuppositions:

1. The standard for “passing” the STAAR test is lower than 70%.  Meaning that students can answer fewer that 70% of the questions on the test correctly and pass.

2. On teacher selected assignments, the vast majority of teachers require at least a 70% on the assignment to receive a passing grade.

3. The STAAR test is 100% correlated to the TEKS required for the STAAR tested course.

4. The required TEKS are not a secret.  We have been accountable to teach all the required TEKS for a given course since… 2002.

5. If we teach the required TEKS at the required rigor, students should be expected to answer questions related to TEKS at a moderate level of success.

Based suppositions 2 – 5, I’m suggesting that it would not be unreasonable to set a 75% correct answer rate as an expectation.

As for your contention that the readability of the STAAR exceeds the reading level of the grade tested (you used 3rd grade as an example), I conducted an experiment.  I took three sample reading passages from the 3rd grade STAAR and ran them through an online LEXILE filter.  Here are my results:

3rd Grade Passage 1 – 830L (4th grade equivalent)

3rd Grade Passage 2 – 1,000L (5th grade equivalent)

3rd Grade Passage 3 – 820L (3rd grade equivalent)

Granted, this was an unscientific sample, not the entire test, and I cannot validate the accuracy of the on-line LEXILE filter.  But, based on your contention and my findings, it would not be unreasonable for the state to share its determination the readability level of each test. Because it would be patently unfair to have a grade level test that uses text more difficult than is required for the grade level.

Still, based on all of the above, IF the test is appropriate for the grade level, I stand by my recommendation.

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