Schools across the state are closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, compelling Governor Greg Abbott to waive standardized testing requirements for the 2019-2020 school year. State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness being cancelled was both a relief and a disappointment for local school districts, officials say.
“The governor waiving all STAAR and EOC assessments has taken a tremendous amount of stress off our teachers and students,” Assistant Superintendent Dolores Trevino said.
School districts are evaluated annually by the Texas Education Agency, receiving Academic Accountability grades largely based on students’ STAAR scores. On an A-F scale, ECISD and LISD scored B and C, respectively, in 2019.
Louise Superintendent Garth Oliver said he hopes education officials will use this opportunity to reevaluate the current system.
“I understand there’s a reason for it, but it’s really gotten out of control,” he said. “We need to do a different type of way that we check on schools … instead of pitting us all against each other like we’re in some type of competition.”
Spring STAAR testing was scheduled to begin in April for ECISD and LISD.
“We really expected to do much better this year with some of the things that we’ve put in place,” Oliver said. “We were really expecting to show remarkable gains, and now we don’t get the chance.”
El Campo Middle School Principal Gary Figirova said he was looking forward to seeing student growth. ECMS’ 2019 Academic Accountability rating is D. Since receiving the rating in August, school officials implemented tutorial groups and other programs for students.
“We had made so much growth and then they cancelled STAAR testing, which was ... disappointing because I knew we were going to do something very special this year,” Figirova said.
Typically, public school students in third through 12th grade are required to take STAAR tests in the core subjects reading, writing, math, science and social studies. Elementary and junior high students take two to three STAAR tests per school year, while high school students must pass five end-of-course STAAR tests to graduate.
On March 18, the TEA announced that because of STAAR cancellation, districts will be given discretion to determine if students have met high school graduation requirements, such as successfully completing curriculum. For more information on this announcement, visit, Tea.texas.gov/sites/default/files/STAAR%20Cancellation_Coronavirus_FINAL%5B1%5D.pdf.
It’s a rub in education, Oliver said, that teachers are ever-focused on preparing students for STAAR.
During a traditional semester, “When you say, ‘oh, we’re preparing for the test,’ (teachers are) going to say, ‘no, we’re not.’” Oliver said. “We’re teaching. If we’re doing all the things right, then STAAR will take care of itself.”
Teachers will continue to teach while schools are closed, although largely remotely.
“Teaching and learning will look very different for ECISD students in the coming weeks but will continue nonetheless,” Trevino said. “We are asking parents and families to support their child’s education by making sure students continue to learn during the school closure.”
Curriculum packets were mailed to ECISD students last week. ECISD students will begin the transition to online learning in the coming weeks. LISD teachers passed out learning materials to students Monday using a drive-through system, and will continue the method weekly.