By JESSIE HORTON
TEXAS (June 11, 2016) – News broke Friday night that the Texas Education Agency will not hold back any fifth or eighth grade student who failed the STAAR tests this school year. Nor will those students be required to retest during the retesting dates later in June. This effects a number of students in local school districts who may have been required by the state to retake those tests, gone to summer school or not moved on as a result of their scores.
“We’re not surprised by the announcement,” Dublin ISD Superintendent Dr. Rodney Schneider said Saturday morning in a phone call with The Flash. “Dublin ISD is definitely in favor of a better testing system as there have been problems in the past as well. And we will work closely with TEA to make sure all necessary requirements are followed moving forward.”
Dublin, Lingleville, Huckabay, Stephenville, Morgan Mill and Three Way ISDs all have fifth and eighth grade STAAR testers and all school districts are affected by this decision.
Stephenville ISD Superintendent Matt Underwood said the SISD leadership team would be meeting at the Central Office on Monday with the two principals of the schools involved to decide how to move forward with this new information.
“We’re debating how to approach this best right now,” Underwood said Saturday.
According to a press release by the TEA Friday, those students’ parents and guardians will be informed further on the matter in coming weeks as officials learn more and can give more informed answers to those affected.
The Texas Tribune was the first to report on the matter Friday, speaking with Education Commissioner Mike Morath.
“I apologize for the continuing problems our students and staff are being forced to deal with because of ongoing reporting issues with our testing vendor,” Morath said. “Kids in the classroom should never suffer from mistakes made by adults. We intend to hold the vendor, Educational Testing Service, accountable.”
ETS is a new Jersey-based company who administered the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness exams for the first time this year. These tests are what Texas students must pass to move on to the next grade level, or even to graduate in some cases. TEA claims almost all of the issues were due to problems with ETS, something that company has denied on previous occasions.
While in the past, there have been a number of issues with the STAAR test, including many educators across the state claiming students are without life skills due to learning nothing but how to take a standardized test; this year the main problem was mostly technical with a large number of districts in the state reporting logistical issues as well.
The first problems were reported in March when online test takers reported a glitch that caused them to lose saved answers, impacting more than 14,000 exams. Other problems have been reported since then, including one district in Austin who claims ETS lost all exams taken in third through eighth grade. However, ETS denies this claim as well, according to the Texas Tribune.
A news release sent out by the TEA also said districts could still hold students back, but not because of scores on this year’s STAAR test. The release said, “even though state requirements have been waived, districts are still encouraged to use local discretion to determine on an individual basis whether accelerated instruction should be offered to support students.”
Dublin ISD will continue to require all students to attend summer school, however, Dr. Schneider said it would be modified somewhat beginning Monday. Stephenville ISD will continue summer school for those who are there for “credit recovery or something else,” however, all students who are in summer school due to STAAR testing scores will be allowed to go home.
The Texas Tribune also reports many students across the state who were set to graduate this year are also affected, however, state law does not allow the commissioner to waive these requirements.
TEA’s release did not include any information about if the announce would also affect the state’s school accountability rating system.
The Flash will bring you more information on this developing story as it becomes available.