AUSTIN (KXAN) — A statewide survey of students, teachers and parents in Texas found 97% of respondents oppose the state’s decision to administer the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, commonly referred to as STAAR tests, this year.
The social media survey conducted by the office of state Sen. José Menéndez, a San Antonio Democrat, received 13,000 responses. In Senate District 14, which includes Travis County, 98% of educators, and 99% of parents opposed the tests.
“The Texas Education Agency’s decision to administer the STAAR exam in person during the pandemic should be reconsidered,” Menéndez wrote in a letter to Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath. “Our students have had to endure a pandemic, an unprecedented winter storm that deprived these students and their families of power and water, and being forced to rely on technology that was not available to some.”
While elementary and middle school students learning virtually will be able to skip the in-person assessments and won’t be punished for doing so, high school seniors are still required to pass five end-of-course exams in order to graduate.
End-of-course exam requirements were waived for graduating high school seniors in the 2019-20 academic year.
Testifying before the Texas House Public Education Committee on Tuesday, Morath said it’s the state legislature that has authority to waive graduation requirements for seniors, not him.
“The statutory framework that y’all have given me gives me the authority to waive the (5th and 8th grade) provisions,” Morath said. “You have not given me the authority to waive any graduation requirements and (end-of-course exams) are, of course, a graduation requirement.”
State lawmakers have a short timeline if they wish to waive graduation requirements for high school seniors this year, since STAAR testing begins next month.
“I think that, for students, it’s really nerve-racking,” said Mario Piña, an Austin Independent School District teacher. “Being in a situation like we’re in now, I think it’s if not twice or maybe three times as stressful trying to get students to pass a STAAR test when we’re not having regular instruction.”
“It was always difficult as it was, and it’s even more now.”
KXAN politics reporter John Engel will have a full report tonight at 6 p.m.