KILLEEN, TX — After much back and forth between school districts and the state, the Texas Education Agency officially announced that every student in grades 3 through 12 must take the annual STAAR exam in person.
After hearing that news, Tina Merker, a mother to two students who learn remotely at Killeen ISD, knew she wasn’t sending her two kids to take the test.
“There's no way that I feel like they should be able to force us to play Russian Roulette with our childrens' lives,” she explained. “For an exam that is not important this year.”
The TEA explained in its release that it's constantly monitoring COVID-19 in relation to education, but believes the best way to evaluate the learning loss from this past year is by having students take the exam.
A circumstance Rick Beaule, the president of the Killeen Educators Association, said may be dangerous for all involved.
“If the outcome is what we are looking for and not the timing, then this is not something that overrides safety considerations,” he said.
However, Hope Balfa-Mustakim’s children are learning in-person at Waco ISD and she explained that exam day will be like any other, though she wonders how her district will accommodate remote learning with compromised health.
“For us, it’s not going to make much of a difference, because our kids have to go to school because of our work situations,” Balfa-Mustakim said. “I’m just curious to know what the district is going to do for those kids who are vulnerable.”
Due to the unusual circumstances the pandemic placed upon the education system, the exam guidelines are altered.
If a student fails the test, it won’t affect their ability to move up a grade, nor will the results affect the school’s accountability rating.
School districts have an option to utilize spaces off of their campuses to use as monitored testing sites, like hotels or recreational centers.
The TEA also explained that districts can request waivers for those students not scheduled to take a taste, to learn remotely that day.
With all of the new guidelines, Rick Beaule questions if taking the test is even worth it.
”If you have to scramble that much do we really need to do it?” he questioned. “There is no real benefit to taking this test.”
The exams will begin at the beginning of April. While students must show up in person this year, many state education officials are calling to have all standardized testing done online by 2022.