Department of Education requiring states to administer standardized tests

Local advocates worried over loss of instruction time
Posted at 9:17 PM, Feb 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-23 22:18:44-05

Guidelines released by the Department of Education show all states are required to administer some type of standardized testing to assess student achievement.

This guidance from the Biden Administration comes before its Secretary of Education nominee, Miguel Cardona, has been confirmed. It also comes as school districts across Texas are still recovering from last week's arctic blast as well as a deficit of instruction time for the 2020-2021 school year.

Tuesday marks eight days of instruction lost since Killeen ISD closed campuses in preparation of last week's winter storm.

“We have been closed since February 11, so we closed that Thursday and Friday and then all last week so we’ve been closed for quite some time in the loss of instruction time is really something we’re concerned with. It’s serious,” said Tiana Maya, Killeen ISD's Chief Communication's Officer.

Maya says virtual learning is not really an option because many students and teachers are without power, leaving the district to weigh their options.

“We’re thinking of some really creative ways to take advantage of time and to build that time into our current calendar, and hopefully not have to extend the school year. It’s really a wait and see game because the TEA and the waiver process takes a little bit more time than we have, but we’re working on a full steam ahead," Maya said.

On top of navigating through the challenges of instruction hours already lost due to COVID-19, building repairs caused by the arctic blast, addressing virtual learning obstacles, and figuring out ways to make up those hours, the Department of Education says school districts are also required to administer standardized tests.

“It makes no sense when we have had so much disruption to this year. It's not a question as to whether we should be concerned, everyone should be concerned," said Rick Beaulé, president of the Killeen Educators Association.

This means schools in Texas will be required to administer the STAAR exam, a test that’s been long objected by Beaulé and a hot topic in the education community.

“Learning is what matters here not the measuring. It's difficult when you have forced standardized testing, which is dubious and frankly unreliable as an assessment instrument," Beaulé said.

The Department of Education has stated states can modify or delay the tests. One waiver says states would not have to record and report the results, which would impact funding and ranking. However, with many within Killeen ISD's jurisdiction still in recovery mode from last week's storm, Maya says the district is focused on the safety and well-being of students and staff.

“We want our parents also to know that no child will be penalized if they’re not able to login during this time. The reality of the fact is that we’re all enduring something from the storm. We really need to give everyone grace at this time,” Maya said.

Tuesday evening, Killeen ISD announced it is preparing for students to return to instruction on Thursday, February 25. If enough boil orders are lifted by Wednesday, Killeen ISD says all campuses but Skipcha Elementary will open to students.

The district's Board of Trustees also voted to adjust its academic calendar to make up for missed days. To view the changes, click here.

25 News reached out to the TEA for comment, but have yet to hear back as of publication time.