by Sahar Chmais
About 67 Texas House Representatives have banded together to request a waiver for the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exam during the 2020-2021 school year.
State Representative Diego M. Bernal for District 123 sent out the letter on Nov. 18. Bernal asked for the STAAR test to be waived completely, but if they cannot waive it, then the second request would be to use it as a diagnostic instrument to see where students stand academically, not as an assessment instrument.
Last year, the agency waived the STAAR test. This year, if the test is to be taken as a diagnostic tool, Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath, would need to accept the proposal. If the test is to be completely waived, the governor would need to make that request to the federal government, explained Erin Zwiener, Texas State Representative for District 45.
Students and teachers have struggled with education since the pandemic was declared.
“As the Commissioner of the Texas Education Agency,” Bernal wrote to Morath, “you and your staff have witnessed firsthand the difficulties of COVID-19 has presented to our educators, our students, and their families; in every aspect of life, nothing has been left untouched or unaffected by this pandemic.”
TEA has widely recognized that children across the state are behind grade-level in nearly every subject, according to the letter. More students are failing this school year than last year, according to data from Hays Consolidated Independent School District.
Zwiener said that it is best for schools to focus on student safety and helping students focus on their education. Adding an assessment exam to their load would not be beneficial to their learning.
The STAAR test may also conflict with student’s catching up from what they missed during the pandemic. Teachers typically put their education agendas on hold for weeks in order to prepare students for the STAAR test, Zwiener said. Taking that time away would further hinder efforts for students to catch up in their education.
There is no plan on how students would take the STAAR test safely in accord with COVID-19 guidelines. Zwiener said she is hopeful that the momentum this waiver is gaining will be enough to get the governor and commissioner’s compliance.