Challenges of the 8th Grade Social Studies STAAR Assessment

The 8th grade Social Studies STAAR Assessment had challenges given the circumstances of COVID. However, it has consistently been difficult for students and hurt the Domain 1 score(s) for districts and junior high campuses across Texas, since the inception of STAAR. The assessment is demanding, and teachers who get this assignment are in for a real challenge with background knowledge and the difficult reading level of the items. 


  • The current political climate has made it challenging regardless of what side of the political spectrum you reside. Teaching generalizations can be dangerous. I have talked to many social studies teachers who are afraid they might say something that is misconstrued or ends up on social media in a misrepresented fashion. I would tell leaders they need your support and encouragement and perhaps assurance to parents the content will be taught as the TEKS represent the content. 
  •  Conceptualization is a must for STAAR success. You must understand conceptually, not just factually. I was a social studies specialist in a former life and getting teachers and kids to do this is difficult. Historical content lends itself to facts and memorization of those facts. Teachers need to model conceptualization. Students must be able to put events in a historical context. This will lead to success.
  • If a student is not at ‘Meets’ in 8th-grade reading, their social studies success is limited. Many of the primary sources are pre-industrial revolution and the language is very different in construction and vocabulary. I would go as far as saying the U.S. History EOC is a much easier read than 8th-grade STAAR. My second piece of instructional advice is to use primary sources every single day. It helps if students are exposed to the language of the time more frequently.
    • Conduct an item analysis. This will assist you in finding out how much time your teachers spend using primary sources. 
  • Students must be able to eliminate wrong answers because they know those distractors do not fit in that period. Their understanding of U.S. history as a story is crucial. If students cannot tell you the story of U.S. history from 1607 to 1865, they will struggle. Encourage students by asking them to tell you the story while in the halls. 
  • Motivate the 7th-grade social studies teacher to get after it with relentless intensity. 


The assessment is difficult; however, it is not 60% Approaches difficult. Instructional time matters here, and there is no time to waste on this content as there are a lot of TEKS to teach. Monitor the scope and sequence and make sure the content is delivered with time for spiraling. This can be a content area that increases your letter grade on your campus. Call me. I will help them. 

Ty Duncan – MindPlay Business Development