F-word Spotted on Texas State-Mandated STAAR Exam for Fifth Graders

A state-mandated exam in Texas that helps determine public school ratings, student promotions and, inevitably, property taxes, had profanity spelled out within embedded images on the exam for fifth graders.

In the reading comprehension segment of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR), students spotted the 'f-bomb' and alerted test administrators, who aren't allowed to discuss exams while the students are taking them.

In the April 10 STAAR test for fifth graders, there were images of a graffiti park, in which two of those had the profanity in small lettering, according to The Dallas Morning News.

"This is in no way acceptable or appropriate, and we deeply regret that these images appeared on the test," said DeEtta Culbertson, spokesperson for the Texas Education Agency (TEA). "We apologize to all our parents and students, and in the spirit of continuous improvement, we pledge to ensure this issue never occurs again."

There were various versions of the total 413,000 tests for that portion, and 15,697 of the booklets contained the images laced with vulgar words. State officials were made aware of the glitch after the April 10 exam was administered.

In the Lumberton Independent School District, located in the state's southeastern area known as the Golden Triangle, a student noticed the profanity and notified the test administrator, according to the TEA. However, school and test administrators cannot discuss the exam while the children are taking it.

The exam itself has come under question by school district superintendents across the state, many claiming the test is written one grade-level above the students who are actually taking it. Students in recent years have also encountered computer glitches while taking the exam.

The STAAR test is based on the state's curriculum standards in the core subjects of reading, writing, math, science and social studies. It's typically administered in the spring at the schools.

The test isn't only a tool to measure the student's performance, but teachers are evaluated by the scores, and school districts often face the difficult choice of replacing principals and even superintendents if their scores aren't high enough.

The TEA went to a new system to rate schools last year, giving them grades of A through F. Schools that consistently receive an F, or needs improvement, rating, then the schools could be taken over by the state.