HOUSTON - Texas lawmakers are calling on the Texas Education Commission to cancel the STAAR test to help students struggling with learning during the pandemic.
In a letter addressed to Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath, nearly 70 Texas House Representatives asked the TEA to waive the STAAR test in the spring, or at minimum, not use students’ test scores to rate schools.
If granted, this would mark the second year in a row that the STAAR test was not administered.
Earlier this spring, the TEA received waivers from the U.S. Department of Education in light of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Houston-area representatives Shawn Thierry and Briscoe Cain were among the bi-partisan group that signed the letter. Both lawmakers said as parents themselves, they understand how difficult this year has been.
"As the father of five, I understand the complexities that come along with the testing and the stressfulness for parents and children and for right now, at least under these circumstances, I think it’s the right thing to do. With the uncertainty students have faced this year and the inconsistent kind of processes that they’ve also faced, I think it's in the best interest for students and teachers that requirement be waived," said Cain, who represents District. 128.
"I've watched my daughter's dedicated teacher literally talk to the kids online like I'm speaking to you in the audience and then turn around and talk to 15 or 20 kids behind her. We have to accept the fact that this is not business as usual. It’s really interesting that we’re asking our kids and our teachers to pay the same price for the product, when in fact, the product is not the same," said Thierry, who represents District 146.
The standardized test is issued to students 3rd through 12th grade every spring. STAAR serves as an assessment tool for kids and an accountability system for teachers and their districts.
Students who fail the STAAR test could be held back if they’re in 5th or 8th grade. For high schoolers, the stakes are even higher.
"In high school, if you fail the STAAR test, it’s detrimental. You won’t graduate," said Michelle Williams, a teacher at Kashmere High School.
The pass/fail ruling won't apply to 5th and 8th graders this school year. In July, Governor Greg Abbott waived the requirement, meaning those who don't pass the STAAR can still graduate.
Williams has been teaching for more than 20 years.
Since the pandemic shut down schools earlier this year, Williams says she’s witnessed several of her high school students struggle to adapt to virtual learning.
The STAAR test usually takes months to prepare for and Williams believes the learning curve this year is just too steep.
"We have kids that go into quarantine. We have some schools that are being shut down as we speak, but we have those disruptions in learning. This is not the year for STAAR and I don’t think children should be penalized for that," Williams said.
Williams also believes the STAAR test is not an accurate assessment of student success.
"There are some students who have not done well in K-12 education but went on to be successful citizens. So it's not an indication of success or lack of success," Williams said.
Williams also serves as the President of the Houston Education Association. She says the organization has been pushing for HISD Board of Trustees to discuss waiving STAAR testing at upcoming board meetings.
Lawmakers said they’re now waiting for a response from the TEA.
FOX 26 reached out to TEA officials, but so far have not heard back.