State says that Texas students will have to take the STARR test but districts and campuses will be exempted from the A-F grading system

Matt Pierce Briscoe

State education officials announced on Thursday that Texas schools and districts will not be graded by the state this school year, but students are still going to have to take STAAR tests.

The Texas Education Agency announced the decision Thursday afternoon, indicating that, in their view, testing data is necessary to show leaders just how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted students and the way that they learn. 

Coronavirus “has disrupted school operations in fundamental ways that have often been outside the control of our school leaders, making it far more difficult to use these ratings as a tool to support student academic growth,” education commissioner Mike Morath said in a statement that followed the news.

School systems must make the STAAR exams available to every eligible student, the statement said. Officials said that the tests will be administered on school campuses or at secure alternative testing sites. Remote learners won’t be required to take the test.

“This is great news for our district,” said CCISD Chief of Staff Kimberley James. “We are grateful that our teachers will be able to focus on the hard work of closing the academic gaps caused by the COVID -19 slide without the pressure of a letter grade being assigned to our campuses.”

Back in the summer, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said that the  STAAR test would not have an impact on whether students in fifth and eighth grade advance to the next grade level. Typically, fifth and eighth graders have to retake STAAR exams if they don’t pass them.

By not grading the districts and schools on the A-F standard, schools and districts will skip another year in the state’s accountability system. The system rewards schools that perform well on the STAAR exams and mandates consequences for districts and campuses that fall short.

*Story updated on December 10, 2020 to include comment from Corpus Christi ISD Chief of Staff Kimberly James. No other edits have been made.

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