A recent change by the Texas Education Agency in how it informs parents about standardized test results has earned the praise of several area education officials.

“This is long overdue,” Galveston Independent School District Superintendent Kelli Moulton said.

State Commissioner of Education Mike Morath recently announced a more in-depth report card for student results on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness.

The STAAR is the standardized test to assess academic performance.

It was adopted as the state’s accountability measure as the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills was phased out in 2013.

“I think when you see the difference between the old and the new report cards, you’ll understand why the change happened,” said Lauren Callahan, spokeswoman for the agency. “With the old one, Commissioner Morath felt it was hard to understand. It was a one-page document with some graphs, numbers and words. If you were really in tune to what your child is doing, you might be able to follow along.”

The new report cards are four-page documents with different information depending on age level. The report cards include graphs of how your child is improving year over year, a breakdown of test results and recommendations of books to read over the summer to continue improving, Callahan said.

School officials said they hope the report cards would encourage parents to participate.

“We will serve our parents however we need to,” Friendswood Superintendent Thad Roher said. “I want to make sure we get them what they need … to understand the report. Today it is all about instant access, and we like the idea of students getting their scores quickly.”

In addition to providing more information, the new system should be faster.

“In the past, TEA wasn’t able to release all student reports to us until July 10 and by the time you get those in, copied and in the mail to students, there’s a process to that,” said Melissa Tortorici, spokeswoman for Texas City ISD. “Parents will get information a lot quicker this way.”

The announcement of the new report card was the result of about a year of research and preparation, Callahan said.

“The commissioner meets with superintendents all the time and is around the state on a rotating basis as frequently as he can be,” Callahan said. “He’s asking for their input on everything under the sun, and this is included in that. Parents were also given the opportunity to weigh in on the old reports, and district testing coordinators were also put into a focus group to review the work we were doing as we prepared for launch.”

The announcement comes as district officials across the county have criticized the state’s over-reliance on the STAAR for measuring student success and have asked for other means to measure a district’s performance.

While the new report cards don’t solve all problems, they do address some, district officials said.

“As learners, we improve by knowing specifically where errors and misunderstandings occur,” Moulton said. “The strides TEA is making to better inform parents help us all as we work for each child’s success.”

The new report cards will be available to all students starting June 30.

“Parent access to STAAR results online is not new for the Texas Education Agency,” Clear Creek Superintendent Greg Smith said. “However, the way the agency has laid out the information has greatly improved this year, giving parents information in greater context versus a simple score on the STAAR test. We certainly value any type of data and feedback that can keep parents informed on their child’s academic progress.”

Matt deGrood: 409-683-5230; matt.degrood@galvnews.com

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