In response to the school closures and extended spring breaks across the state resulting from COVID-19 concerns, Governor Abbott issued a statement Monday morning officially waiving state requirements for STAAR testing for the 2019-2020 school year.
In his press release, Governor Abbott noted that health and safety are top priorities, and “the state of Texas will give school districts flexibility to protect and ensure the health of students, faculty, and their families.”
This move comes after 58 independent school districts in North Texas called on the Texas Education Agency and Governor Abbott to cancel STAAR testing this year so that the schools can focus on student instruction and safety, rather than the implementation of state-required testing during “an impossibly difficult situation.”
Although the STAAR tests have faced heavy criticism in past years from teachers and lawmakers, Governor Abbott and TEA Commissioner Mike Morath both expressed confidence in STAAR in separate statements, with Morath calling it “an invaluable tool,” and Governor Abbott’s press release stating that he remains committed to ensuring that the educational information it provides will remain available to educational stakeholders in future years.
Emily Sass, the education policy director at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, says that the governor’s statement falls short of “cancelation” of the STAAR test this year.
In a statement also provided to the Austin-American Statesman, Sass pointed out that, “By waiving state STAAR testing requirements and requesting a similar waiver from the federal Department of Education (DOE), Governor Abbott has done his job to remove the requirements for STAAR testing this year. Most STAAR tests are also required by federal law. The governor’s waiver of state statute is the first step in a process; all eyes will now be on the DOE.”
Sass also noted that if STAAR tests are not implemented and the DOE does not issue a waiver, some portion of federal funds for education in the state of Texas could be in jeopardy. “However, if there are enough other states making similar requests, then a waiver would probably be granted,” Sass concluded.
Commissioner Morath has indicated that further guidance from the TEA will be forthcoming this week. In the meantime, parents and educators are experiencing relief, even as they wait to discover how exactly Governor Abbott’s waiving of STAAR testing requirements will impact their students and schools.
Charity Nicholson graduated from the Honors Academy at Howard Payne University where she double-majored in Political Science and Communication. After working in various state political campaigns and as Director of Constituent Services for Senator Konni Burton, she began working full-time as a mother to two toddlers. When not chasing after tiny humans, Charity enjoys exploring National Parks with her family, reading historical non-fiction, and listening to true-crime podcasts.