Thousands of remote students will be forced to return to campus for final assessments

Education

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Thousands of students across Texas, many of which have chosen to learn virtually for the entire fall semester, will be forced to return to campus next week to take assessments required for graduation.

The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) program, first implemented in Spring 2012, will have end-of-course assessments beginning Tuesday, Dec. 8 until Friday, Dec. 18.

The exams are required for graduation and must be taken in person to allow for a trained test administrator to supervise.

This requirement of in-person attendance has made some families uneasy after they made the intentional decision to keep their children home all semester.

“We shut down the schools when there wasn’t even a case yet,” said Jennifer Randall, whose kids have learned virtually through the Manor Independent School District.

“It was a big deal to choose [to learn remotely] but felt that it was worth it just for the health of everyone. To do our part and stop the spread,” Randall said. “We went through all of this, and now that we are seeing the worst of the worst and numbers are going up, they’re like, ‘you have to bring your kids back to school or they won’t graduate.'”

Local school districts say this is out of their hands and is a decision that has come down from the state.

Administrators with the Round Rock Independent School District say it’s up to the Texas Education Agency to relax the STAAR requirements. Otherwise, all five EOC exams (English I, English II, Algebra I, biology and U.S history) will be required in order to graduate.

There are around 800 students registered to test starting next week in RRISD.

The Texas Education Agency extended the testing period to two weeks to give districts more flexibility in scheduling and allowing a greater opportunity to test all eligible students.

Administrators within the Hays Consolidated Independent School District said 376 students are scheduled to test, with 197 currently enrolled for remote learning this fall.

The district had a trial run for testing in October when some students took the SATs, which administrators say helped shape their protocols for the EOC exams. The district will utilize larger spaces like gyms and libraries to allow students to spread out more.

Leaders in the Leander Independent School District say their safety protocols, including physical distancing, enhanced hygiene measures and requiring face masks will keep students safe during this exam window.

“Our consistent partnership and consultations with local health agencies, in addition to our contact tracing of confirmed COVID cases, continues to illustrate that the district’s high-quality safety protocols work. We are confident that we can continue to provide a safe, welcoming environment for our test-takers who heretofore have chosen to learn virtually.

Leander Independent School District

Reach KXAN’s Education Reporter Alex Caprariello by email at alexc@kxan.com or by phone at 512-703-5365, or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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