With STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) testing scheduled to resume in December, Lewisville ISD is imploring the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to reconsider its decision.
LISD Superintendent Dr. Kevin Rogers wrote to TEA Commissioner Mike Morath this month, detailing reasons why moving forward with December STAAR end-of-course assessments would be detrimental to students, according to a LISD news release. Rogers wrote that administering the tests would be one of the most difficult challenges the district has had to face since the start of the pandemic.
“While Lewisville ISD believes it is essential to assess students to inform education decision-making and identify student learning gaps that have been exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19, we have not received adequate guidance or support from TEA to proceed safely with STAAR EOC testing in December 2020,” Rogers wrote.
In LISD, families are given a choice when it comes to learning pathway options for students — in-person, virtual, or for secondary students, virtual plus — allowing families the opportunity to make the best decision for their situation. However, per current TEA guidelines, students receiving remote or virtual instruction must take STAAR EOC tests on campus and in-person.
“This will directly contradict the parent or guardian’s choice for the student to remain off campus,” Rogers wrote.
Approximately 40% of LISD high school students are in the virtual learning pathway. If virtual students are required to come back to campus for testing, LISD will need to administer nearly 12,000 assessments in-person come December. Rogers said the logistics, from classroom set-up to available computers, would be too complicated. Additionally, with COVID-19 cases on the rise across the state, he said the district believes the health of students and staff, as well as families, will be in jeopardy.
“Even with the extended testing time frame, it will be nearly impossible to administer tests while ensuring proper social distance protocols are in place,” Rogers wrote. “It will not be possible to ‘actively monitor’ test takers as defined by TEA and maintain a distance of six feet. The guidance to test at an alternative testing site is not practical for a district our size as we would have to provide transportation for thousands of students to and from off-campus testing locations during the school day.
“Additionally, large venues across the state are either closed or operating at significantly reduced capacity, limiting our options.”
Rogers, noting the district’s commitment to leading by example and staying solution-oriented, offered the commissioner alternatives to consider instead.
In order of preference, the district laid out the following alternative options: cancel December 2020 STAAR EOC tests; deploy TEA personnel to assist school districts with test administration; extend the testing window into January; offer an online version of the STAAR EOC tests for remote learning students; or waive the graduation requirement associated with STAAR EOC tests.
“Let schools focus on what matters most right now: educating students while meeting their social and emotional needs,” Rogers wrote about the district’s preferred alternative of cancelling the December testing.
As he closed, Rogers commended TEA for encouraging the U.S. Department of Education to waive the 95% testing requirement, calling it “a step in the right direction.” However, Rogers said there is a “new normal” now and districts today are operating much differently than they did only mere months ago.
Rogers ended his letter encouraging Commissioner Morath and TEA to consider LISD’s recommendations and welcomed further discussion on the matter.
“Our primary focus is on assessing and meeting the basic needs of our students,” Rogers wrote. “Many of the procedures we implement will likely continue after the pandemic but the undue stress and burdens that accompany STAAR testing are among the handful of protocols we should leave behind.”