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Legislators call for no STAAR test this year

Fine by me, and very fine by my kids.

A bipartisan group of 68 Texas House representatives signed a letter calling on the Texas Education Agency to cancel the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness exam or at minimum not use student scores to rate schools or districts this school year.

The letter, penned by Rep. Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio, asks that the state apply for waivers from the U.S. Department of Education to cancel the standardized test, which is administered to students in third through 12th grade.

Should the test still be administered during the coronavirus pandemic, it “should only serve as a diagnostic instrument to see where our students stand academically as opposed to an assessment instrument to determine district and campus sanctions,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.

The letter is addressed to TEA Commissioner Mike Morath, but it’s “just as much a letter to the governor,” Bernal said in an interview, adding that Gov. Greg Abbott “very easily could call the play to change the landscape right now.”

“If we take our time talking to educators — not administrators — but educators, counselors, parents and students, of course, that the last thing they all need right now is the extra and added stress of STAAR,” Bernal said.

You can see a copy of the letter and its signatories here, and a late addition here. As you may recall, the STAAR test was waived last spring at Greg Abbott’s order. The Chron adds some details.

The federal government and Texas Legislature set broad frameworks for testing and accountability, while the TEA fills in many details for the state. Texas did not administer STAAR in the spring of this year after the TEA sought and received a federal waiver because of the pandemic, which forced the abrupt shutdown of all public schools in March.

The U.S. Department of Education has not decided whether it will grant similar waivers in 2021. The decision likely will rest with President-Elect Joe Biden’s new administration, which has not yet taken a firm stance on the issue.

At a State Board of Education meeting Wednesday, Morath said the state plans to apply for waivers related to student participation rate requirements, which essentially punish districts when some children do not take exams. However, he did not commit to canceling the exam or outline potential changes to the state’s A-through-F accountability rating system.

“I think there’s still a lot of question as to how we might pursue this,” Morath said. “We’ve got 10 or so different options, as it were, to consider. No final decision has been made as we gather feedback from folks.”

If Texas education officials move forward with STAAR in the spring, the group of 68 state representatives wants the TEA to set aside its traditional campus and district accountability framework.

“At most, any administration of the STAAR exam during the 2020-2021 school year should only serve as a diagnostic instrument to see where our students stand academically, as opposed to an assessment instrument to determine district and campus sanctions under the current A-F accountability system,” the legislators wrote.

The letter echoes some of the arguments made in recent months by educator organizations and unions, which lobbied against high-stakes standardized testing before the pandemic. Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina said STAAR testing “should be the last priority” in schools.

“Our students, educators and their families can’t afford the distraction of STAAR as they struggle to stay safe and continue to adjust to new methods of teaching and learning,” Molina said in a statement Wednesday.

I mean, this entire year has been at best a struggle for many, many students. I don’t see the point in making it any harder on them. Ditch the STAAR until things are back to normal.

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5 Comments

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    Kids are failing out at alarming rates with the ‘video schooling’ that is being proffered by districts everywhere. They need to be in the classroom, not at home watching on a computer. This is the real inconvenient truth.

    So, what is the solution? Hide the problem by not testing the kids! Kids who were already behind are going to be in even worse shape after this year, and kids who were doing well face a very real chance of getting behind. Hell yes, the testing needs to take place, if for no other reason than to show, in concrete terms, the massive failure of shutting schools down because of the Wu flu.

    Actions have consequences. The STAAR tests will make clear what those consequences actually are, so of course the usual suspects want to do away with the test. It’s shameful how kids are being thrown under the bus.

  2. David Fagan says:

    The HISD board must be ecstatic over this.

  3. Manny says:

    Never thought I would see Trump/Republicans so caring about children, especially minority children, being in school. Wonder if they will support higher pay for teachers, year-round school, school starting at either three or four years of age? Or is their care BS? I go with it is BS starting with Trump going all the way down to the Bill Daniels of this world.

  4. Ross says:

    Bill, you obviously don’t have a kid in school, or you would know that the STAAR is a crappy test with major cultural biases and numerous questions that are too far above grade level for students to answer them. The main purpose of the STAAR is to make money for the purveyors of the test so they can continue to donate to their Republican legislator friends who then advocate for vouchers to send kids to private schools. Teachers, and students, are tired of day after day of test prep and cramming, along with frequent benchmarking tests. The kids learn nothing from that exercise, other than how to take a test.

    As for forcing all of the kids back into the schools, the school groups I am on on Facebook and other platforms seem to have a very large ratio of parents who do not want their kids in the classroom. Teachers are leery as well, since getting sick is much harder on the adults than the kids.

    So, Bill, why do you want people to die?

  5. […] here for the background. I’m all in for skipping the STAAR, in part because I think the kids could […]

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