In March, Governor Greg Abbott waived State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) requirements for students. By closing schools for the time being, officials and educators stated they were more concerned with the drastic instructional change and health of their students.
Since then, the governor has canceled the 2019-2020 school year entirely and questions remain as to how the 2020-2021 school year will be handled in the fall.
An aspect of that overall decision will relate to the handling of STAAR testing. Schools are graded on how their students do on the tests and, thus, the usual problems with standardized testing accompanies them.
But since schools have had to adapt to unforeseen circumstances, students missed a lot of time in the classroom — virtual or otherwise.
Austin ISD said in April that the district had trouble getting its students to attend their virtual classroom sessions.
Federal funding levels are determined, in part, by standardized testing grades for school districts. With students out of class, it is possible for those grades to depreciate. Because of that, some stakeholders want to see these tests waived.
State Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Van) announced a resolution on Wednesday asking the governor to, again, suspend the accountability ratings attached to the STAAR tests, this time for the 2020-2021 school year. The lawmaker also called on the legislature to establish alternate methods of evaluation to diversify the grading system.
“STAAR test results and data will be an unreliable and unfair evaluation of students, teachers, administrators, and schools as traditional learning has been suspended due to COVID-19,” Flynn’s resolution reads.
ISDs in Texas are primarily funded by property taxes, but some funding and school reputations are built upon these standardized testing grades.
But some have been arguing against STAAR testing long before the pandemic.
State Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) reacted to the resolution, tweeting, “As one who has filed legislation to move away from the current STAAR structure, I’m delighted w/ any effort to restructure our testing system. And I’ve often called for a revised accountability system, as the current one doesn’t truly gauge ISD [performance]. Especially true right now!”
Krause and others believe the testing does not accurately grade student or school district performance and too much emphasis is placed on them.
In the 86th Session, State Rep. Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa) introduced a bill to eliminate the STAAR testing entirely, and preclude the use of “public school assessment instruments as a criterion for promotion or graduation or to make certain accountability determinations.”
While the bill did not make it out of the Public Education Committee, it did receive a sizeable response in the public square.
Other critics, last year, said the test was too difficult for students.
In the 2018-2019 school year, only half of Texas students performed at or above grade-level on the STAAR tests in all subjects — up two percent from the previous year.
Students, as of now, will return to instruction in August, by whichever medium the Texas Education Agency allows.
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Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad watching and quoting Monty Python productions.