STAAR-themed decorations adorned the hallways of Wharton Elementary School in Wharton two years ago. Photo credit: Pu Ying Huang for The Texas Tribune
Texas is letting school districts decide whether certain students can graduate or move on to the next grade in the wake of canceling the state standardized test that would usually be used to make those decisions.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that requirements to take the STAAR exam, taken in third through 12th grade, would be eliminated this year statewide, a relief for many school officials who expected to close down indefinitely as more people contract the COVID-19 disease. Student scores on the test determine whether high school students can graduate, whether some elementary and middle school students can move on to the next grade, and whether schools can remain open.
Usually, fifth and eighth graders must pass the STAAR in order to move to the next grade. In a notice Wednesday, the Texas Education Agency gave administrators flexibility to make those decisions based on students’ grades, academic information and teachers’ opinions.
In normal circumstances, high school students must pass five subject-specific standardized tests in order to graduate. The TEA is allowing students on schedule to complete instruction this semester for classes that have corresponding standardized tests to fulfill graduation requirements without them. Younger high school students can get credit for a test this year if they earn credit in the corresponding course.
High school seniors who need to retake end-of-course exams in order to graduate, but now cannot, will not be required to pass the exams to graduate. Instead, an appointed committee of their teachers, guardians and educators will determine whether they can graduate.
The TEA also asked the U.S. Department of Education to waive testing and school accountability requirements for this school year “in this extraordinary circumstance where the state’s testing window has inhibited the ability of the state to accurately measure students’ performance and report results to parents and stakeholders.”
Districts that still want test data to determine how students are achieving academically will be provided other tools.
The latest updates on coronavirus in Texas: At least three Texans’ deaths have been linked to COVID-19 as the state experiences a public health disaster. Community spread has been discovered, more than 90 cases have been disclosed and the number of positive tests is expected to increase exponentially. A patchwork of school cancellations, calls for social distancing and businesses closures are disrupting the economy and Texans’ daily lives.