Phenomenal Intervention: S.T.A.A.R. Prep

Using A Structured Test Prep Model To Boost Performance

Jeremiah Short


STAAR test performance is critical to student’s confidence and informs accountability for K-12 schools in Texas. This article details the six-week model used to boost performance of scholars at a Title I school in Houston, Texas. To illustrate the structure, I (a) state the purpose for the intervention, (b) explain the interventions utilized over a six week period, and (c) share results of the intervention. 

Keywords: Intervention, S.T.A.A.R., Reading, Data, Test Prep

Intro: Making A Plan

Following a disappointing STAAR Simulation performance, the ELA(English Language Arts) team convened to determine the proper intervention for students in danger of failing the upcoming Reading S.T.A.A.R. test(State Assessment). 

We decided to…

1. Provide 80 minute Intervention for 3rd and 4th Graders

2. Use Assessment Data to Drive the Intervention

3. Method of Intervention Differentiated By Grade Level

I was asked to intervene with 30(Became 29 4th graders) in four different groups. To eliminate “Ability Grouping”, I requested that the groups be collapsed into two groups. 

Purpose of Intervention: Boost Test Performance

Of the 29 students that I’d be providing intervention to for six weeks, 16 failed the S.T.A.A.R. Simulation. My goal was to reduce the 16 to 0 failing the actual S.T.A.A.R., although 8-10 was more realistic. If I “recovered” the requisite number of students, then the actual pass rate for the grade-level would increase from 59 to 80-plus percent. 

Pre-STAAR Prep

Figure 1.1: Daily Skills Tracker

Week 1: Main Idea and Elements of Drama

Evaluating the data from the S.T.A.A.R. Simulation, Main Idea and Elements of Drama were the two TEKS(Standards) where the 4th grade students displayed gaps. 

As a scaffold, I taught Key Details, which is a prerequisite for Main Idea and enhances scholars ability to find Text Evidence, on Day 1 of the intervention. Both groups exhibited varying levels of proficiency with the skill.

On Day 2 of the Intervention, students were introduced to the Elements of Drama(Characters, Dialogue, Acts, Scenes, etc.). Teaching this concept helps scholars analyze Dramatic Literature. Both groups displayed proficiency with the skill. 

Upgrading the rigor, students were shown how to determine the Main Idea of a text and use Key Details to support the Main Idea. I was encouraged that both groups built upon the previously learned skill–Key Details–and combined it with the Main Idea to become proficient. 

With students knowing the necessary skills to analyze, I modeled answering questions and taking notes on a Drama and Main Idea passage.

Friday, the students were given a quiz on Main Idea and Drama.

Skill FocusGroup 1: PerformanceGroup 2: Performance
Day 1: Key Details52.2777.27
Day 2: Elements of Drama76.1586.64
Day 3: Main Idea84.0987.5
Day 4: Drama/Main Idea77.3/65.3880/70
Day 5: Quiz68.4674
Figure 2.1: Week 1 Average score By Group

Week 2: UNRREAL And Author’s Craft

Coupling Test Prep with Skills, I taught students the test prep strategy: UNRREAL.

U:nderline the title and Make A Prediction

N:umber the paragraphs.

R:ead the questions and label them.

R:ead the passage and annotate.

E:liminate Wrong Answers.

A:nswer the question.

L:ook for evidence

I focused on Author’s Craft Skills: Author’s Purpose, Author’s POV, Text Organization, and Persuasive Text. The students displayed a level of proficiency with Author’s POV but struggled with Text Organization and Persuasive Text. Text Organization was a glaring weakness, so I emailed the results to their classroom teachers, in addition to resources for small groups.

Skill FocusGroup 1: PerformanceGroup 2: Performance
Day 1: Author’s Purpose50.756.9
Day 2: Author’s POV60.472.9
Day 3: Persuasive Text59.37556.6
Day 4: Persuasive Text/Text Organization60.41/56.2555/36.66
Day 5: Author’s Craft Quiz63.6155.6
Figure 3.1: Week 2 Average score By Group

Week 3: Text Analysis

In the final Pre-STAAR Prep week, I decided to focus on building comprehension and reader’s response by using Text Analysis. The method of instruction is rigorous but effective.  (Explanation of Text Analysis)

Throughout the week, students used their critical thinking skills. They were primed to begin “Test Prep.”

Skill FocusGroup 1: PerformanceGroup 2: Performance
Day 1: Fiction94.1692.66
Day 2: Persuasive Text84.1689.33
Day 3: Info Text8290.58
Day 4: Quiz5657.76
Figure 4.1: Week 3 Average score By Group

Figure 5.1: Example of Daily TEKS(Standard) Mastery Tracker


Now that the students had acquired the necessary skills, I moved into Test Prep utilizing my self-created structure. It’s intensive but effective.

The Structure

1. Skill Review(15-25 min.): Pre-Teach one key skill. 

2. Lesson Within A Lesson(5-10 min.): Pre-Teach key words, vocabulary, activate or build background knowledge, and one or two minor skills.

3. Daily Passage(30-45 minutes): 6-10 question passage where you model test taking strategies.

4. Exit Ticket(5 min.): Multiple Choice question on daily core skill. 

Week 4: Fiction

Fiction was the focus in week one of Test Prep, which was a short week. I hit on the three core genres: Drama, Realistic Fiction, and Poetry.

I created a bit of competition between the two groups by reviewing and posting data daily. Students cheered when their group did well on specific TEKS and Exit Tickets. 

Genre FocusGroup 1: PassageGroup 1: Exit TicketGroup 2: PassageGroup 1: Exit Ticket
Day 1: Drama90608686
Day 2: Realistic Fiction1008810094
Day 3: Poetry/Paired Passage91557176
Day 4: QuizN/AN/AN/AN/A
Figure 6.1: Daily Passage/Exit Ticket Pass Rate By Group for Week 4

Week 5: Informational Text

In week two of Test Prep, I focused on Informational Text, which is typically the toughest genre for multiple reasons.

1. Requires high-level of background knowledge

2. Heavy on Tier 2 and Tier 3 words

3. Students have to re-read and look back into passages for answers. 

As the week progressed, the students understood the importance of finding and citing their evidence. I embedded it within instruction–as students weren’t allowed to answer without “showing their proof.”

If they showed adequate proof, they were given a reward. After a while, it became a habit, which was my goal.

Genre FocusGroup 1: PassageGroup 1: Exit TicketGroup 2: PassageGroup 1: Exit Ticket
Day 1: Info Text75N/A74N/A
Day 2: Lit. Non-Fiction9283.38478.9
Day 3: Historical Fiction/Paired Passage501005959
Day 4: Info Text9063.68872.2
Figure 7.1: Daily Passage/Exit Ticket Pass Rate By Group for Week 5

Week 6: Paired Passages

Closing out Test Prep, I focused on Paired Passages, which are two passages from different or the same genre. The question set asks students to determine similarities and differences.

Both groups didn’t master the skill but they did show that they were approaching proficiency with the skill.

Test Prep concluded. I was confident that the students would transfer their new skills to the Actual STAAR Test.

Genre FocusGroup 1: PassageGroup 1: Exit TicketGroup 2: PassageGroup 1: Exit Ticket
Day 1: Realistic Fiction831007277.7
Day 2: N/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Day 3: Historical Fiction8358.39589.4
Day 4: Info Text/Paired Passage9191.691N/A
Figure 8.1: Daily Passage/Exit Ticket Pass Rate By Group for Week 6

Results: Benchmark To STAAR 

Overall, the students improved from 45 percent passing the Benchmark to 79 percent passing the STAAR Reading 2022 test. It helped the grade-level improve from 59 percent to 78 percent pass rate with 54 percent Meets/Masters.


  • 6 students improved 30 points 
  • 10 students improved 20 points
  • 15 improved 15 points
  • 5 students Mastered the STAAR
  • One students went from Did Not Meet to Masters
  • Group 1 Improved from 49.66 to 60.41 average score
  • Group 2 improved from 53.76 to 69.76 average score

Limitations of Study

  • Friday assessments were inconsistent
  • Approach varied by grade-level
  • More fidelity needed
  • Not enough synergy with classroom teachers and small groups

Conclusion: My findings weren’t shocking but confirmation of the structure that I developed in my 3rd year of teaching. In this iteration, Pre-STAAR Test Prep was added, to go along with proper administrative support. 

It’s gratifying to help students grow from Did Not Meet to Meets with some Mastery. The Test Prep model gives a blueprint for Test Prep cycles and ensures success on future State Assessments. 

Jeremiah Short, Reading and Writing Interventionist

Up Next: Phenomenal Intervention(The Playbook)

Published by Jeremiah Short

My name is Jeremiah Short, and I'm a educator with six years of experience. I love to teach and the overall craft of the profession. I've written one book on my journey(As I Took My Walk With God Volume I: I Stopped Wasting God's Time) with a second one way (As I Took My Walk With God Volume II: Greatness Was Upon Them). In addition to writing books, I've created several instructional routines: Word Power, T.I.D.E., Bloom's Units: Reading and The Phenomenal Classroom.

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