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How Brazos Valley school districts are preparing for the in-person STAAR exam

Posted at 10:02 PM, Feb 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-02 23:02:44-05

The Texas education Agency is moving forward with this year's standardized test and extending the window for selected exams.

”I want the testing, not so much for the rating, but we need to know how our children are doing," said Caldwell ISD superintendent Andrew Peters. "We lost three months last year, and it’s even been tough for the first semester doing a lot of online,”

Grades three through 12 are required to take the state assessment exam, with only few exceptions for those receiving homebound services. Some parents are upset with the TEA's decision.

School districts are looking into how they will assess the exam. For example, Caldwell ISD is looking into remote learning days.

”One of the things we looked at is possibly having our other students that are not taking the test do a at-home learning day," said Peters. "That will reduce our numbers and allow us to spread the kids out.”

Meanwhile Bryan ISD will take advantage of the TEA's extra assessment time by transitioning their students to online testing, which officials say will also give them more flexibility in the number of students they test a day.

”To take advantage of that extended window," said Director of Accountability Research and Assessment for Bryan ISD, Jill Morris. "Then help our students start preparing for the mandate from the state that we be all online by 2023."

The TEA believes this is still a great time to gauge how much students have learned, despite all the challenges.

Administrators like Morris believe standardized testing can use a more holistic approach.

”Standardized testing is a good tool to know where a student is at a single point and time," Morris added. "But it by no means gives you the whole picture of what a student knows.”

According to Peters, there are still about 45 students in his school district practicing remote learning. Those students will need to go to their campus, or as the TEA announced, find an alternative testing site.

If remote high school students refuse to take the exam, they will receive a score code of zero, holding them back academically. This wasn’t the case last year when the pandemic first hit.

”If the kid took the course, they didn’t have to take the test and they will never have to take the test. Those kids were protected for the rest of their high school career," Peters said. "Everybody expected that this year, and that did not happen."

Although high school seniors must take the exam to graduate, the TEA announced in early January that all A-F ratings for school districts have been placed on pause.

In the TEA’s guidance released for the spring 2021 state assessment, officials emphasized social distancing on campuses, as well as providing waivers for districts who are unable to follow local health protocols, allowing students to remote learn on days they're not scheduled for an exam.