Texas students will still have to take the STAAR test next year, but fifth and eighth grade students will be able to move on to the next grade even if they fail, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday.
State education officials announced earlier this summer that third through 12th grade students would take the state standardized exams, or STAAR, this upcoming academic year. Normally, fifth and eighth graders must pass the STAAR in order to move on to the next grade, or else they must retake it later that year or over the summer. But Abbott said that next spring, the fifth and eighth grade math and reading exams would only be administered one time, in May.
Texas education officials told school administrators Monday that they would have local discretion on whether fifth and eighth graders should advance to the next grade, and must support students who perform poorly. They also posted a revised testing calendar for the upcoming school year.
Abbott also said Monday that schools and districts would continue to receive A-F ratings based on students’ test scores, “albeit with certain adjustments due to COVID-19.” The statement did not elaborate on those adjustments.
In the spring, after school buildings began closing because of the pandemic, Abbott gave school districts flexibility to decide on fifth and eighth graders’ promotions based on students’ grades, academic information and teachers’ opinions. Student scores on the STAAR also determine whether high school students can graduate and whether schools can remain open. In normal circumstances, high school students must pass five subject-specific standardized tests in order to graduate. Abbott’s release did not mention waivers for those students.
Parents, educators and lawmakers from both parties have been urging Abbott to call off testing requirements for the upcoming school year because of how the coronavirus pandemic has interrupted students’ usual learning environment.
But Abbott said the test was necessary to provide a high-quality education for students. “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,” he said in a statement Monday.
The latest decision to continue administering the STAAR came days after federal officials said not to expect a waiver on federal testing requirements next spring. Jim Blew, an assistant secretary to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, told reporters at an event Friday that testing provided many benefits, including showing where students fell behind due to the pandemic.
In the spring, the Trump administration announced it would not enforce federal standardized testing requirements for the 2019-20 school year because of the coronavirus.
The Texas State Teachers Association criticized Abbott Monday for not canceling the exam next spring.
“We are glad the governor suspended the promotion requirements for fifth and eighth graders that are tied to STAAR scores for the upcoming school year, but he didn’t go far enough. STAAR testing will still be wasteful and stressful at a time when teachers, students and their parents are stressed out enough over a deadly pandemic,” the group’s president, Ovidia Molina, said in a statement.