STAAR waiver not enough, local school district leaders say

Gov. Greg Abbott announced July 27 that he is waiving STAAR grade promotion requirements for fifth- and eighth-graders for the upcoming school year due to COVID-19. But some educators don’t think that goes far enough.

Under the Texas Education Agency’s academic readiness program, schools must normally use a student’s State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness test results in the decision to promote them to the next grade. Under the governor’s waiver, fifth- and eighth-graders’ math and reading assessments will not be used in the decision this school year.

“As always, our goal is to provide high-quality education for every Texas student,” Abbott stated in a media release. “This will be a uniquely challenging school year, therefore, this year is about providing students every opportunity to overcome the disruptions caused by COVID-19. By waiving these promotion requirements, we are providing greater flexibility for students and teachers, while at the same time ensuring that Texas students continue to receive a great education — which we will continue to measure with high-quality assessments.”

The governor stated that the traditional A-F rating system assessed on public school districts and campuses based on several criteria, including STAAR tests, will continue for the 2020-21 academic year.

Though education leaders applaud the governor for the STAAR waiver, they would like to see him go even further.

“The Governor’s announcement that he waived the promotion requirement for students in grades 5 and 8 is good news and a good start,” said Burnet Consolidated Independent School District Superintendent Keith McBurnett, “but the (BCISD) Board and Administration still believe that the STAAR assessments and accountability system should be suspended for the 2020-2021 school year, and will continue to advocate for that on behalf of our staff, students, and families.”

Marble Falls ISD Superintendent Dr. Chris Allen concurred.

“I appreciate that the Governor is not linking the promotion to grades 5 and 8 to the STAAR performance and view it as a good first step in the right direction,” he said. “There is a significant number of people who have the opinion, based on sound reason, that the State’s ‘Accountability’ system be waived this year — acting (on) those opinions would be an appropriate next step.”

The Texas Classroom Teachers Association is also calling on the state to suspend administration of assessments as well as the A-F accountability system. 

McBurnett pointed out that, with all of the changes districts, schools, teachers, and students are dealing with this year due to COVID-19, “there is no way that an academic accountability system can be fair or equitable.”

daniel@thepicayune.com

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