Just prior to the passage of House Bill 3906 by the 86th Texas Legislature in 2019, part of which eliminated the stand-alone writing tests in grades 4 and 7, the State Board of Education had already adopted revised Reading Language Arts TEKS designed to support an integrated approach to the teaching of reading and writing. The redesigned RLA TEKs were implemented for K-8 in the 2019-20 school year and will be implemented in high school in 2020-21.

In order to meet HB 3906’s requirement to eliminate the 4th and 7th grade writing assessments, TEA is working on redesigning the state reading/language arts assessments for grades 3-8. TEA will begin the transition to implementation of the redesigned RLA assessments in 2021-22 with the elimination of the 4th and 7th grade writing tests, as well as the addition of multiple choice writing items to the state RLA assessment in grades 3-8. Implementation of the fully redesigned RLA assessment will occur in the 2022-23 school year.

TEA is consulting with a commissioner-appointed educator advisory committee, required by HB 3906, to develop academically appropriate assessments. TCTA member Melody Young serves on the committee as a math curriculum/instruction expert.

Thus far, decisions have been made to include writing in the RLA assessments via multiple choice revising and editing items, as well as shortened revising and editing passages as appropriate. Other ideas being considered include adding short answer constructed response items, expanding genres and grade levels for the essay, and eliminating the 26-line essay limit.

TEA is also redesigning the reading portion of the RLA assessments to align with the revised RLA TEKS, including adding new genres (like argumentative) to the assessment, as well as adding foundational language skills questions in grades 3-8. Also under consideration is whether to include short answer constructed response items.

Field testing of new item types will occur throughout the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school year.

Finally, since HB 3906 requires that, beginning with the 2022-23 school year, a state assessment cannot include more than 75% of questions in a multiple choice format, TEA is in the process of determining what non-multiple choice item types should be included in both the reading and writing portions of the redesigned RLA assessments.

Examples of new item types being considered include multipart, multiselect, constructed response, drag and drop, hot spot, inline choice, and text entry. TEA will be consulting with teachers this summer about which item types work best at various grade levels.  According to TEA, focus groups will be conducted throughout the summer and fall to gather feedback on proposed new item types.

TEA encourages educators to share their thoughts and opinions by applying to serve on a focus group. Click here to apply. 

Online testing feasibility study

Another requirement of HB 3906 is for TEA to conduct a feasibility study of administering all required state assessments electronically no later than the 2022-23 school year. The study is due to be submitted to the legislature by Dec. 1, 2020.

TEA is partnering with Texas A&M Education Research Center to gather input from educators, including the distribution of a survey to school districts in mid-May. Additionally, the ERC conducted virtual case study interviews with 6–7 representative school districts during May and June. According to TEA, because large-scale online testing will differ based on a variety of factors, role-specific interviews will help TEA gain a deeper understanding of prior experience with online testing as well as potential future opportunities and challenges. Selected school districts will feature a representative mix of geographic areas, student enrollment size and demographics, and levels of online testing implementation.

According to TEA, the feasibility study also will include a review of the state’s previous experience with online testing, risks to the transition, and potential mitigations. It will also include an overview of recommendations for the transition, including estimated costs, policy changes, and an implementation timeline. 

Integrated formative assessment pilot

House Bill 3906 also requires TEA to establish a pilot program in which participating school districts administer integrated formative assessment instruments to students in the same subjects/grade levels that are required to be assessed by STAAR. The goal of the pilot is to determine whether such an approach improves instructional support, as well as to assess the feasibility of replacing STAAR with integrated formative assessment instruments.

Participating districts would still be required to administer STAAR during the pilot.

TEA anticipates that the pilot will be multi-year and has no implementation date at this point.

Since formative and summative assessment serve different purposes, TEA is approaching this requirement by HB 3906 via two initiatives. The first is the launch of a formative assessment tool in Fall 2020. This is an optional, free tool to supplement and support existing district resources and formative assessment practices, and is unrelated to accountability.

According to TEA, the tool will include a question bank, a test-builder platform, and data reports. TEA expects that the items will come from various sources, including released STAAR questions, and items collaboratively written by Texas teachers as well as existing high-quality items from districts (which will be checked for TEKS alignment).

The other initiative is an optional, multi-part, through-year assessment pilot that aims to generate a cumulative score similar to STAAR and someday potentially replace the summative STAAR. The launch of the pilot would be the 2021-22 school year.

TEA is gathering additional stakeholder feedback on the design of the pilot through the summer via a subcommittee of the Educator Advisory Committee as well as focus groups and interviews with teachers, parents and students.