School districts across Texas began phasing out the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) this year in favor of a new series of tests that place a greater emphasis on college readiness standards.

The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STARR, were designed by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and cover the same subjects as the TAKS for the third through eighth grades, as well as 12 new End-of-Course assessments at the high school level. Unlike the TAKS, STAAR will implement a four-hour time limit on each assessment.

William Adams Middle School principal Sandra Lopez-Knezek said they are making sure teachers are well-prepared so the transition goes smoothly and students are able to achieve at commended levels in the Spring.

“Everybody knows the R word, 'rigor,'” Knezek said. “It's going to be brand new and it's going to be hard.”

WAMS will hold a four-day series of mock testing beginning Dec. 6. Seventh and eighth graders will be tested in math and reading, with seventh graders also being assessed in writing and eighth graders in science and social studies.

Tutoring in tested areas is offered after school Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays until 4:30. Additionally, FACE/Gear-up will host monthly informational meetings from now until March.

“We've had one in science already,” Knezek said. “We show the parents … samples of what's going to be on the test, so that they can get exposed to all this.”

The next meeting, which will cover math, is scheduled for Dec. 13.

Knezek said it is also important for students to keep their skills sharpened over the winter break.

“As they do their things together as a family, it's so easy to just order for the children, even at McDonald's,” she said. “A lot of the good experiences come when the parents make the kids get up there and order themselves, and give them a chunk of money and see if they can stay within whatever money they've given them.”

Knezek said reading and problem-solving are particular areas students should be devoting attention to on a daily basis.

“They need to be planning that way,” she said. “We tell the parents the kids should be reading every day, 20 to 30 minutes a day. Every evening they should be reading at home. It'll be exercising your brain.”

Parents with any questions or concerns are encouraged to call the school at 660-2055.

For more information on the STAAR assessments, visit the TEA website at www.tea.state.tx.us.