By Juan Rivera Odessa

In recent years, OHS has been branded as an IR school, meaning that Improvement is Required in standardized testing among students. This sad fact has led many people, such as educators, students, and parents, to ask the same question: Who is to blame for these dismal scores? The test itself, by default and by conclusive evidence, is to blame for the IR rating in many schools, and for the lack of critical thinking among students.

There is a specific article titled “I Can’t Answer These Texas Standardized Test Questions About My Own Poems” by Sara Holbrook. In this article, Holbrook explains that her poems were used on the 2013 and 2014 STAAR Reading assessments; and goes on to say that Texas English teachers were emailing her, asking what in the world her poems meant. In short, the makers of the STAAR test, (a British company called Pearson), did not even attempt to contact Holbrook to ask what her poems meant; meaning they made inaccurate interpretations about her poems on the test that determines a student’s “Academic Readiness”. A bit ironic, don’t you think?

In 2013, the state of Texas paid approximately $500,000 to Pearson for the STAAR test. It is a quiet secret that forcing children to answer badly written questions created by money-hungry education officials brings in quite a profit. In addition to this, Pearson was criticized in 2013 for hiring people on Craigslist to grade the STAAR test. What better people to determine if a child goes on to the next grade then people from the same website where I could buy a used couch and escort services? It’s safe to say that the STAAR is over glorified as a judge of all students, especially when the graders might have a cocaine business on the side.

The question makers may argue that the questions on the STAAR facilitate critical thinking; however, how does one expect for a student to think critically on a test with answers that were seemingly pulled out of thin air? Recently, it seems as if the students are training an entire semester on how to pass the STAAR, or the TAKS, TASK, TOSS, etcetera. This in evident in Murry Fly’s chant “Beat the TAKS” whenever I attended. The chant said nothing about thinking critically, nothing about achieving dreams, simply to get over with it; like pulling out a splinter. The STAAR test is a splinter in students’ feet; causing more damage each year it is administered.

If no one does anything about this absolute mess that is the STAAR, more students will continue to be unfairly assessed, all the while believing that what they are doing is for their benefit.