Last week, Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath signaled he might consider not applying this year’s scores on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, to the agency’s assessment of Harvey-affected school districts.
If he does forgo using the STAAR results, it would be welcome news to many school superintendents in those areas.
Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast in late August 2017, causing more than 40 inches of rain in parts of the county.
The storm displaced families, who have sought temporary residence in hotels, shelters and housing in the county and elsewhere, disrupting the start of school and shaking up enrollment.
In December, Morath said he would remove a requirement for students who fail the tests to retake them, and face the possibility of being held back.
In a letter sent to school district administrators, Morath said the decision was because of Hurricane Harvey’s effects. Districts in Galveston County and 46 other Texas counties that were declared disaster areas received the waiver.
Morath’s decision came after county school officials told state lawmakers a month earlier the storm displaced as many as 40,000 county residents, many of who were still living in places other than their homes.
At that hearing, education officials requested special consideration when it came to state accountability standards, which are largely based on how students perform on state standardized tests, for Harvey-affected schools.
Initially, Morath said waiving scores and ratings would lead to teachers and students not being held accountable for teaching and learning. His stance appeared to soften this week during comments Morath made during a meeting of the state Board of Education.
A final decision on whether to implement Harvey-related waivers won’t be made until June, so the agency can set specific rules regarding the exemptions, an education spokesperson told The Texas Tribune. DeEtta Culbertson said agency officials will “look at the STAAR scores, and (Morath) will make determinations on districts or campuses based on some kind of Harvey-related waiver.” Based on that determination, STAAR scores may not be included in Harvey-affected schools’ ratings.
While Morath’s decision won’t be made for months, that he is taking the affect Harvey had on school districts into consideration is a good start.
• Dave Mathews