With nothing more than rumors to indicate STAAR testing will be canceled this spring, local teachers are preparing students for the upcoming exams in spite of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

With “all the information I’ve gotten, hearing the commissioner speak a few times about it, I don’t think (STAAR) is going to go away,” El Campo ISD Assistant Superintendent Dolores Trevino said. “So that’s been our message to the teachers. The teachers understand that it’s still happening and we’re still moving forward.”

All but about 500 students are currently attending classes in person at ECISD, as of Jan. 3, according to state health data. With few students attending remotely, STAAR prep won’t be vastly different from previous years, according to administrators.

“We want to go ahead and prepare for (STAAR), because that data is very helpful in planning for next year and making plans for where our kids maybe have gaps or what we’re going to have to focus on,” Trevino said.

In March 2020, schools closed for part of the spring semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic. By the end of the month, Gov. Greg Abbott canceled STAAR testing for the 2019-2020 school year. As COVID-19 cases across the country spike, Abbott has yet to cancel STAAR testing for the 2020-2021 school year, which will be held in April and May for local school districts.

At Louise ISD, STAAR testing preparation will be a part of the curriculum, but it won’t be the main focus of the semester, LISD Superintendent Garth Oliver told the newspaper in early January.

“STAAR is one of the things that helps us assess where our kids are for the expected learning from the state,” Oliver said. “It’s not ever really a focus for us. We want our kids to be very well rounded, and our mission is to educate the whole child.”

Last week, the Texas Education Agency announced the next steps in its plans to make STAAR testing fully online by 2022. Online STAAR testing has been available to students needing testing accommodations since the 2016-2017 school year and for several years at ECISD.

“Students have become accustomed to utilizing technology for assessments and assignments,” ECISD Superintendent Bob Callaghan said. “We believe it will be a smooth transition from traditional paper and pencil assessments to assessments conducted on technology devices.”

“Beyond the previous online STAAR testing opportunities, our students have been utilizing Chromebook capability and an online format since August,” Callaghan added.

Public school students in third through 12th grade are required to take STAAR tests in 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.

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