Studying for STAAR test

Serenity Crockett works on an algebra equation in Bryan Curran’s class at Central Media Arts Academy in Galveston on Friday, April 20, 2018. Gov. Greg Abbott this week waived normal standardized testing requirements for some students.

GALVESTON

Local school leaders this week praised Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to waive normal standardized testing requirements for some students, with Galveston County education experts arguing students already are enduring enough with the coronavirus pandemic.

But while praising Abbott’s decision in part, they also argued the ruling doesn’t go far enough. Abbott should also temporarily waive accountability measures for districts as a whole, they said.

“It is disappointing that the governor does not recognize that these challenging times will also impact districts as a whole,” Texas City Superintendent Melissa Duarte said. “To place the burden of letter grades on districts who are attempting to meet the academic, social and emotional needs for students, as well as to close the gaps that potentially were created during this closure, adds a layer of undue stress that potentially takes away from the important work we need to continue to implement.”

Adults, as well as children, are struggling and working to overcome barriers created by the pandemic, Duarte said.

Tony Brown, board president at Galveston Independent School District, called the ruling a mixed bag.

“I like accountability,” he said. “In many ways, it helps us and makes us look good. But a lot of people don’t like putting everything on one test and one day, and I understand that, too.”

Officials with the Texas State Teachers Association echoed Duarte’s comments, arguing Abbott didn’t go far enough.

The governor should suspend the school accountability system and the teacher appraisal system for the upcoming school year, officials with the organization said.

Abbott this week announced that normal grade promotion requirements connected to the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness tests for students in fifth through eighth grade have been waived for the upcoming school year.

Typically, students in those grades must take the tests late in the school year and again in the summer if they don’t meet grade-level requirements on those first exams, officials said. But with this waiver, students will only take the one series of math and reading assessments in May to coincide with the other assessments.

“This will be a uniquely challenging school year,” Abbott said. “Therefore, this year is about providing students every opportunity to overcome the disruptions caused by COVID-19.”

While waiving the promotion requirements, Abbott kept in place an oft-criticized measure for evaluating school districts based on standardized test results.

Under the Texas Education Agency’s system, schools and districts receive letter grades of A to F based on different factors, such as student achievement scores, closing the achievement gap among student groups and other factors.

The accountability system was created by the Texas Legislature in 2015. Galveston County education experts at the time criticized the system, arguing it relied too much on standardized test results and that it was too complicated to understand.

Abbott has previously waived district requirements handing out letter-grade ratings because of irregularities after Hurricane Harvey, which caused mass flooding in 2017.

Matt deGrood: 409-683-5230; matt.degrood@galvnews.com

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