Waiver Sought for Fed. Testing Requirements
By Will Johnson
HOUSTON COUNTY – After calls from state legislators over the weekend, Texas Governor Greg Abbott waived the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) testing requirements for the 2019-2020 school year on Monday, March 16.
Additionally, Governor Abbott has requested that the Department of Education (DOE) waive federal testing requirements for the 2019-2020 school year.
A letter, sent to the governor by State Rep. Jeff Leach R-Plano on Friday, March 13 requested “… any and all requirements and mandates related to the provision of the 2020 STAAR test be canceled, since area school districts have substantially limited classroom instruction.”
A Monday press release from the Governor’s Office stated, “Governor Abbott is working closely with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to ensure that schools continue to deliver instruction to students while students are absent or while schools are closed due to COVID-19. This includes tailoring instruction for students with special needs so that they have access to the same education as other students in the district.”
The media release further stated, “Governor Abbott will continue to work with the TEA on developing additional methods to ensure that students are learning and ready to succeed at the next grade-level. These discussions are ongoing and more information will be provided as it develops. Additionally, Governor Abbott is requesting that the Department of Education (DOE) waive federal testing requirements for the 2019-2020 school year.”
Concerning the STAAR test waiver Grapeland ISD Superintendent Don Jackson expressed he was in favor of the governor’s decision.
“I’m glad the state is willing to understand the situation it would put our school in. When you’re dealing with a situation like this, where you miss any amount of school, it takes some of the pressure off of the students and staff members,” he said.
“The STAAR test,” Jackson continued, “is a high-stakes test. It causes a lot of anxiety. In a situation like this, for them to focus on our health and welfare, I applaud the state for making this decision.”
In the governor’s press release, Abbott stated, “Your health and safety are top priorities, and the state of Texas will give school districts flexibility to protect and ensure the health of students, faculty, and their families. We will empower schools to make the best decisions to protect their communities from COVID-19.”
Crockett ISD Superintendent John Emerich was also asked what he thought about the STAAR waiver.
“Obviously, on the surface, it does seem like some good news,” the superintendent said. “I don’t want to say too much about it because, even with that announcement today, there were some reservations from the (Education) Commissioner (Mike Morath) when he further clarified what the governor expressed on a conference call. Until we get all the details, I don’t want to say too much more than that.”
He added, “I think it was the right move considering the fact our students are missing this instructional time and possibly could miss a good deal of instruction before this is all over.”
During the conference call referenced by Emerich, “Morath suggested superintendents consider telling parents sooner, rather than later, that closures would stretch beyond a few weeks,” according to the Texas Tribune.
Abbott stressed, superintendents should continue to prioritize the health and safety of students, faculty, and their families. Their leadership is an important part of our statewide efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and protect public health.
Will Johnson may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.