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      STAAR to offer online study guide

      The first class bell hasn't rung, but these Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District educators are already hard at work for the 2013-2014 school year. One of the items up for discussions as they kick off the school year is success on the STAAR test.

      Board President George McShan said HCISD is focused on results.

      "That is student achievement (and) making sure that our students are going to be able to do very well in the world, being college ready (and) workforce ready, McShan said.

      That's good for Harlingen, good for quality of life and economic development."

      The standardized test has been criticized by many including educators, administrators and parents. Some believe the standards are being raised too high and it's forcing teachers to "teach to the test" instead of really preparing an all around student.

      Although the state is not letting up on the rigorous test, they have decided to provide online sample questions to help prepare students.

      McShan said now students will have the chance to better prepare for STAAR like with the SAT'S or ACT.

      "There's not a secret, there's a sense of fairness if you will, that teachers can feel empowered, McShan said. (If we know what the) test is going to be about, then we can frame the teaching in a way to allow students to deal with rigor, deal with critical thinking skills (and) become problem solvers."

      Long Elementary School teacher of the year Lisa Bazan said she welcomes the new challenges that the STAAR test brings.

      She said it forces teachers to become better.

      "It's actually forcing teachers to go in and change their methods of teaching to make sure that the kids can actually expand on those (questions and answers) so they can actually get to those higher order thinking stills.

      Bazan said Rio Grande Valley students can keep up with the STAAR high standards and the online questions will be an added resource to help them succeed.