Students at Piner Middle School in Sherman are sitting down Tuesday to take the STAAR 8th grade mathematics test — a test that some other local middle schoolers will not be required to take. The problem comes from conflicting requirements from state and federal educational authorities regarding 8th grade students who are enrolled in algebra I.

Students at Piner Middle School in Sherman are sitting down Tuesday to take the STAAR 8th grade mathematics test — a test that some other local middle schoolers will not be required to take. The problem comes from conflicting requirements from state and federal educational authorities regarding 8th grade students who are enrolled in algebra I.


"We are doing all we can for the students to make sure they are tested the right way," said SISD Superintendent Al Hambrick to the school board last week. "But we also need to make sure we are meeting the regulations set by the state of Texas and the U.S. Department of Education."


The issue is called double testing, and it requires 8th grade students studying algebra I to take two major math tests at the end of the year: one in algebra, one in regular 8th grade math. This excess of testing, ironically, was caused by recent state attempts to reduce the number of major standardized tests required to graduate.


New state guidelines under Texas House Bill 5 require all students graduating high school to have passed an algebra I end-of-course test. Most students take this course in high school, but a handful of advanced 8th graders take algebra I in middle school.


Federal accountability requirements from the U.S. Department of Education, however, require all students to be tested in grade-level math every year from grades 3 through 8.


This means that 8th grade algebra students are required by two different educational authorities to take two different math tests on two different subjects.


Attempts by the Texas Education Agency to use the algebra test results to replace these students’ 8th grade math scores for federal purposes have been unsuccessful so far. The decision on whether or not to double test is a local issue, and each Texas school district decided how to proceed independently.


TEA Commissioner Michael Williams advised schools last month not to administer the 8th grade test. Schools following that advice, however, may risk losing federal funding.


"We believe it would not be prudent for us to knowingly violate federal accountability laws," SISD assistant superintendent Tyson Bennett told the Board of Trustees last week, explaining the decision.


Most local schools, however, decided not to double test, hoping that Texas and the federal government will eventually come to an agreement. Algebra I students in Denison, Whitesboro and Van Alstyne will not take the 8th grade STAAR test.


"We tried to decide based on what is in the best interest of those students," said Denison ISD Director of Special Programs and Assessment Brent Hoy. "The algebra I test will tell us everything we need to know."


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Schools on their own to avoid double testing math