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Harmful Elements in STAAR 2023 Practice Tests


STAAR Grade 8 Reading

"Starting From Scratch"

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13 “So,” Grandpa said, his eyes sparkling, “what do you think?” 14 Before answering, I thought about our day. The garden, the shopping trip, the prep work, the embarrassing stories he shared about Mom that I stored away for later use. “I . . . I . . . love it, Nonno!” I said.15 Then his face broke into a smile so warm that I was sure I hadn’t told him a lie.

Result: The child lies to his grandfather to make him feel better. Passage sends the message that lying is acceptable under certain circumstances. This is opposite of what has traditionally been taught in public schools. Teaching values and beliefs is up to parents.

Harmful Element:

  • #13. Undermines Traditional Values & Beliefs

  • #14. Undermines Parents or Parental Rights


STAAR High School English I

Passage from "The Namesake" by Jhumpa Lahiri

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36 Gogol picks up a pencil, grips it tightly, and forms the. letters of the only word he has learned thus far to write from memory, getting the “L” backward due to nerves. “What beautiful penmanship you have,” Mrs. Lapidus says. She tears up the old registration form and asks Mrs. McNab to type up a new one. Then she takes Gogol by the hand, down a carpeted hallway with painted cement walls. She opens a door, and Gogol is introduced to his teacher, Miss Watkins, a woman with hair in two braids, wearing overalls and clogs. Inside the classroom it’s a small universe of nicknames—Andrew is Andy, Alexandra Sandy, William Billy, Elizabeth Lizzy. It is nothing like the schooling Gogol’s parents have known, fountain pens and polished black shoes and notebooks and good names and sir or madam at a tender age. Here the only official ritual is pledging allegiance first thing in the morning to the American flag. For the rest of the day, they sit at a communal round table, drinking punch and eating cookies, taking naps on little orange cushions on the floor. At the end of his first day, he is sent home with a letter to his parents from Mrs. Lapidus, folded and stapled to a string around his neck, explaining that due to their son’s preference he will be known as Gogol at school. What about the parents’ preference? Ashima and Ashoke wonder, shaking their heads. But since neither of them feels comfortable pressing the issue, they have no choice but to give in.

Notes: Gogol is the child and the parents are Ashima and Ashoke. Mrs. Lapidus is Gogol's (the child) teacher.

Result: The educator (and possibly school district) are ignoring the parents' wishes and calling the child by his own desired name. This is an example of ignoring parental desires/rights. The passage is also setting forth the example that the parents have no other option other than to adhere to what the educator has communicated. This is also not accurate. The overarching theme or message being conveyed to any child reading this is that they can choose their own name regardless of what their parents desire. A very concerning issue in our nation right now is children wanting to be the opposite sex so they choosing to be called names that fit the opposite sex. This story is normalizing 1) choosing a alternate name (regardless of the reason) other than the name on your birth certificate, 2) children disobeying parents, and 3) non-parental adults (whether it be an educator or school district) violating parental desires, values & beliefs. One could also argue that it is touching on a sensitive issue within our culture (gender confused minors) that is very volatile, undecided by laws, and age inappropriate. Minors should not be wrestling with this topic. It has no place on a state test, practice test, or otherwise. The actual book, "The Namesake" by Jhumpa Lahiri, also contains elements that are harmful for children.

Harmful Elements:

  • #10. Promotes Transgender Ideology

  • #13. Undermines Traditional Values & Beliefs

  • #14. Undermines Parents or Parental Rights

  • #20. Political Agenda

  • #22. Source Material Harmful

Please note at the bottom of the passage, it says "Excerpt from THE NAMESAKE by Jhumpa Lahiri. Copyright © 2003 by Jhumpa Lahiri. Reprinted by permission

of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved."

See "Ed Spotlight: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH)".

See "Ed Spotlight: NWEA".

See "The Namesake" by Jhumpa Lahiri on Texans Wake Up books for more information about the title. 'Beartown' is another concerning title referenced on a past STAAR review.


STAAR High School English II

Poem named "The Fox" by Faith Shearin

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15 It was awful to watch him sleep: exposed, tiny, his eyes closed. How can any animal. be safe enough to rest? But while I washed our dishes he woke again, yawned, and ran away to the places only foxes know. My God 20 I was tired of being a person. Even now his tail gestures to me across the disapproving lagoon.

Result: The text uses the Lord's name in vein. This is degrading and offensive to Christians. The author also eludes to being tired of being himself, tired of life, or wanting to possibly be something different. Possibly a fox? Either way, it is strange and depressing. With the mental health decline in America's youth, we are positive this was not the best choice of passages.

Harmful Elements:

  • #13. Undermines Traditional Values & Beliefs

  • #14. Undermines Parents or Parental Rights

  • #17. Social Emotional Learning/ Mental Health Concerns

  • #18. Violates Natural Age Appropriateness

  • #23. Painting Christianity In A Negative Light

Note: We have not reviewed the source text.

How can I publicly access this information on the TEA website?

  1. go to

  2. in the search bar type 'new staar test'

  3. Now click on the 5th result 'Type Paper Samplers'

  4. It takes you to this page.

We recommend opting your child out of the STAAR test.

See also "Education Spotlight: STAAR".

See also "Harmful STAAR Source Material | Books".

All site content falls under the Fair Use Law and is for the sole purpose of alerting parents of the dangers available to children no matter the source.

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