'A' through 'F' grading paused, but STAAR test to continue, state says

AUSTIN, Texas (KTRK) -- The STAAR exam will continue for this school year, according to the Texas Education Agency, but the "A" through "F" rating system will be paused.

In a statement issued by the TEA on Thursday, the STAAR test will proceed for the 2020-21 school year in order to "provide critically important information about individual student learning that teachers and parents can use to help students grow."



Schools that incorporate results from the exam into teacher evaluations will be given time and flexibility to allow them to remove that component this school year.

The TEA said STAAR results allow schools, teachers, and parents to see how individual students are performing while also giving education leaders and policymakers a picture of the impacts of the pandemic on student learning.

The agency adds that the STAAR will not be used for accountability purposes this school year.

"The last nine months have been some of the most disruptive of our lives. The challenges have been especially pronounced for our parents, teachers, and students," said Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath. "We continue to prioritize the health and safety of students, teachers, and staff in our schools this year, while working to ensure students grow academically."

Meanwhile, the "A" through "F" rating will be placed on hold. The agency uses this system to grade a school's performance. Students will still see the "A" through "F" system when it comes to grades on their report cards.

"The issuance of A-F ratings for schools has proven to be a valuable tool to support continuous improvement for our students, allowing educators, parents, and the general public to better identify and expand efforts that are working for kids. But the pandemic has disrupted school operations in fundamental ways that have often been outside the control of our school leaders, making it far more difficult to use these ratings as a tool to support student academic growth. As a result, we will not issue A-F ratings this school year," added Morath.

The announcement comes weeks after more than 60 Texas legislators signed a letter asking the TEA to cancel the STAAR exam this school year.

The letter, crafted by by Rep. Diego Bernal, asked the TEA to cancel the exam and have it be used as a "diagnostic tool" instead.



"At most, any administration of the STAAR exam during the 2020-2021 school year should only serve as a diagnostic instrument to see where our students stand academically as opposed to an assessment instrument to determine district and campus sanctions under the current A-F accountability system," read the letter.

Bernal, who represents a district that covers downtown and north central San Antonio, serves as vice chairman of the State House Public Education Committee. A total of 68 legislators signed the bipartisan letter.

READ THE LETTER IN FULL HERE.



Bernal also mentioned the "COVID Slide" in his letter, which refers to the belief that the virus has impacted large numbers of students to the point that many are now behind and/or failing.

"Instead of proceeding with the administration of the STAAR exam as planned, the agency, along with our districts and campuses, should be focused on providing high-quality public education with an emphasis on ensuring the health and safety of students and educators," wrote Bernal.

Meanwhile, the Texas State Teachers Association supported Bernal's efforts. In a tweet posted earlier this month, the organization said, "#TeamTSTA applauds and supports the efforts of 68 members of the Texas House, both Republicans and Democrats, who have called on the state education commissioner to seek the necessary federal waivers to cancel STAAR testing for this school year."



In July, just four months after the pandemic began, Gov. Greg Abbott waived the grade promotion requirement related to the STAAR exam for 5th and 8th grade students.



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