Standardized Testing

Student with head in their hands, staring at a desk covered in materials. Behind them is the answer grid of a standardized test.

While the Texas Education Agency has waived many of the STAAR test’s wide-reaching consequences for students and schools this year, the state remains committed to the test.

So does the federal government: In February, the U.S. Department of Education announced it would provide flexibility in how state assessments are given but that it would require exams to be administered this year.

Given the continued COVID-19 risk and the recently lifted state mask mandate, parents, teachers, and lawmakers are rightly concerned about the safety of in-person testing and the strain STAAR will put on the mental health of our educators and students.

“Our kids and educators have been through enough hardship in the past year and don’t need the useless burden of weeks of test prep and testing for scores that won’t be valid. Our leaders should be prioritizing educators for COVID-19 vaccine distribution. On that issue, though, Morath and Abbott are nowhere to be found.”
— Zeph Capo, Texas AFT President

In Feb. 2021, Reps. Gary VanDeaver and Alma Allen joined standardized testing experts and union members to discuss the burden of STAAR.

What You Need to Know About STAAR

Why do students have to take the exam?

The argument for the STAAR test is that its data is necessary to capture where students are academically after this year and what resources are needed to address gaps. The problem with that? STAAR was never designed for this purpose. If we want reliable, actionable data on student performance, teachers already perform their own academic assessments throughout the year.

Didn’t the state waive STAAR requirements?

The state has waived several of the test’s consequences this year, though not the test itself. Grade promotion requirements for students in grades 5 and 8 have been waived, as well as A-F school ratings for the year. Notably, TEA has not waived graduation requirements for seniors.

Are students required to take the test, and are they required to take it in person?

Federal and state law requiring state assessments for students still apply and cannot be waived by the state’s commissioner of education. Schools must provide the opportunity for all applicable students to take the STAAR, STAAR Alternate 2, and TELPAS assessments — or they risk losing eligibility for remote instruction funding.

TEA is requiring students to take the spring STAAR test in person. In order to take the test, students who have been receiving remote instruction will be required to attend in-person testing. While Texas state law does not provide a formal process for parents and students to opt out of STAAR, Commissioner Mike Morath has said remote learners can skip the STAAR exam if their parents simply opt for remote instruction on testing dates. He has made no mention of a similar option for in-person learners.

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