Calls to cancel the STARR exam continue to grow louder. Texas House Democrats are calling on the TEA and Governor Greg Abbott to cancel the exam due to exam readiness as well as coronavirus concerns following the release of new guidelines that require students to take the test in person.
Representatives with Texas House Democratic Caucus are urging Gov. Abbott and the TEA to save students, parents, teachers and everyone else in-between the headache of proceeding with this year's STAAR exam.
If administered in the spring, roughly five million kids across the state would be required to take the test. Some say requiring students to take the test in person is a logistical nightmare and will put all parties involved at risk of getting infected with COVID-19.
Representative Alma Allen, who is an educator herself, says the test does not paint a clear picture of student achievement
“It is irresponsible to waste millions of dollars on a test that even in a normal school year has been shown not to give an accurate picture of how our schools are performing," said Alma.
After calls from state leaders and teachers to cancel this year's STAAR exam, one student is speaking out too.
Candice Merker has always been a straight A student and in previous years has passed the STAAR exam with flying colors. But this year, learning styles have changed drastically. As a student that has 100% of her classes online, Merker does not feel prepared to take this exam.
“If we come back and there’s like 20 to 30 cases of people getting COVID, who’s gonna be responsible for that? We’re not just going to be able to throw that to the side and be like, 'Oh well we need to test,' because we didn’t even have it last year, so we definitely don’t need it this year. I’m not comfortable, and I’m struggling. I feel a little bit scared to take this test,” she said.
Murker says she is failing a few of her classes, even after reaching out to her teachers for help. She also says her mental health is suffering due to the stress of learning in a way that does not best suit her needs as well as a lack of social interaction.
“I’ve been in multiple meetings with multiple teachers, and I’ve emailed them questions and it just seems like I’m never getting the help that I actually need," Merker said.
She knows this years results won't count, but the 10th grader worries for her family members who are at a high risk of catching COVID-19 if she has to take the test in person.
“If I’m going into school and I get someone in my family sick, who’s going to take care of them? Who is going to pay for the medical bills? Because I know the state isn’t going to take responsibility for it,” said Merker.
Having administered hundreds of tests as an educator, Killeen Educators Association president Rick Beaulé believes there is no benefit to the test.
“It makes no sense from a safety standpoint. It makes no sense from an academic standpoint, so there’s really no reason to be taking this test or forcing this test on anyone. The idea that a single test is going to give an accurate portrayal of where a student is at is simply not true. It’s one pic pixel of a picture at that point in time," said Beaulé.
Merker says she knows that there is lots of money involved with the STAAR exam but feels people's health should not be compromised for profit.
“That’s selfish. Like you’re really going to put money over our health and over everyone’s mental health too. I don’t know I feel, like it shouldn’t be happening right now," she said.
With the support of her family, Merker has been doing her best with her school work and prioritizing her mental health. She urges the TEA to cancel the STAAR exam, and maybe explore other options like the semester exams they already take to gauge what students know.