The Burnet Consolidated Independent School District board of trustees added its voice to a growing call for the state of Texas to suspend its standardized testing and school accountability rating system during the 2020-21 academic year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Board believes there is no way to implement a fair or equitable academic accountability system this school year, and that teachers, principals, and staff need to have their sole focus on providing high-quality instruction while also supporting the social and emotional needs of our students during the pandemic,” BCISD Superintendent Keith McBurnett stated in a July 21 letter to parents.
During a special meeting July 20, the BCISD board approved a resolution requesting the Texas Education Agency suspend the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) as well as the A-F grading system for school districts and campuses. The A-F system does not grade individual students. The STAAR is an assessment, or series tests, designed to gauge what students have learned and their ability to use that knowledge.
The TEA stated earlier this summer that the STAAR and accountability rating system will take place in the 2020-21 academic year. It suspended both last school year due to the pandemic.
Though Marble Falls ISD has not sent a resolution to the state making a similar request, district officials said several organizations have done so on its behalf.
More and more districts, teacher associations, and parent organizations have called for a suspension of STAAR and the rating system.
Texas PTA President Suzi Kennon sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott on July 13 asking him to suspend STAAR testing for the coming year to give “children, educators, and schools time to recover instructionally and emotionally from last school year while coping with an uncertain future.”
She also wrote about the “digital divide” in Texas when it comes to online education.
“While the shift to online learning (last spring) was difficult for all students and their families, it was impossible for many,” Kennon wrote. “Because of this, we saw the gap in access to equitable education widen dramatically. This gap is a crisis of its own.”
While the state is requiring public schools to offer in-person learning for the upcoming academic year, some parents might choose to keep their children home to learn remotely for health reasons and other concerns. And some of these families might not have reliable internet access for online education, which could cause the student to fall behind in class.
If schools are forced to close campuses to in-person learning during the year, even more children could be struggling to keep up.
“There is not a scenario in which administration of STAAR testing is appropriate in the coming year. Not one scenario,” Kennon continued in her letter. “The focus now must be allowing all Texans — including students and families, educators and school districts — time to adequately adapt to a crisis we are still very much living every day. This virus spreads with indiscriminate reach, and our parents are rightfully nervous to send their children to school in August.”
Individuals can share their thoughts with state leaders, including:
- Gov. Greg Abbott
- Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath
- Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick
- Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen
- State Rep. Terry Wilson
- State Sen. Dawn Buckingham