The Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced last week that it would pause A-F school ratings for the 2020-2021 school year “due to the ongoing disruptions associated with COVID-19.” To gauge how students have fared, Texas will not cancel the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test.
“The issuance of A-F ratings for schools has proven to be a valuable tool to support continuous improvement for our students, allowing educators, parents, and the general public to better identify and expand efforts that are working for kids,” TEA Commissioner Mike Morath said.
“But the pandemic 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. As a result, we will not issue A-F ratings this school year.”
The TEA uses these ratings to measure how well schools prepare their students for college, a career, or the military. The ratings take student grades, student progress, and demographic data into account. The TEA keeps a searchable database of individual schools’ ratings here.
Though the TEA will press on with STAAR tests to keep a thumb on the pulse of student performance, schools that use STAAR scores to evaluate teachers will have the flexibility to leave the student scores out of teacher performance this year.
The tumultuous 2020-2021 school year has brought old suspicions of the STAAR test to a boil. State Rep. Matt Shaheen (R-Plano), a longstanding critic of the STAAR’s rigidity, filed a bill today that would bar schools from using test scores as the sole measuring stick for teacher performance. The bill, House Bill 812, would also adjust measurements of student performance to fit the student individually and examine a student’s growth over time.
State Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) has also filed a bill that would swap end-of-course exams for post-secondary tests like the SAT or the ASVAB in high school and eliminate all STAAR tests that are not federally required in elementary and middle school.
State Senator Beverly Powell (D-Fort Worth) filed Senate Bill 142, which would require the state auditor and the State Board of Education to investigate the STAAR to see how well it measures student success.
Earlier this year, State Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Van) publicly asked the governor and the TEA to suspend the accountability ratings attached to the STAAR test, foretelling an “unreliable and unfair evaluation of students” amid the pandemic’s interruptions of traditional learning.
Despite support for opening schools from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Texas schools staggered to a start this year. Remote learning has posed new difficulties, and some districts that decided to straddle in-person and remote learning found some of their teachers strained with doing the same job twice — though, notably, other teachers found the video lessons easier. To address staffing concerns, the TEA has allowed schools to fully switch online for 14 days.