States Will Need to Administer Standardized Tests, Feds Say

If you were hoping for a reprieve from the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (or STAAR) test this year, it likely won’t be coming.

While Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath has long maintained that the test will still be given this year, some had held out hope that a second federal blanket waiver would eventually be forthcoming after the Biden administration took the reins of the U.S. Department of Education.

But a letter to education officials at all 50 states has put that to rest.

The “Dear Colleague” letter from the department quashes any plans to cancel federally mandated standardized tests, but does offer more flexibility to states on how those tests are administered.

An email to the Texas Education Agency about whether the state plans to modify some of its plans based on the new information has not received a reply yet.

“To be successful once schools have re-opened, we need to understand the impact COVID-19 has had on learning and identify what resources and supports students need,” wrote Ian Rosenblum, acting assistant secretary in the office of elementary and secondary education. “We must also specifically be prepared to address the educational inequities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, including by using student learning data to enable states, school districts, and schools to target resources and supports to the students with the greatest needs. In addition, parents need information on how their children are doing.”

Last spring, then-Education Sec. Betsy DeVos issued a blanket waiver allowing states to cancel the assessments as COVID-19 cases began to climb and most if not all schools were closed to in-person learning.

This year, department will not invite state requests for such waivers. Instead, states will be allowed to give shorter versions of the tests for English/language arts, math, and science. They will also be allowed to give the test remotely “where feasible.”

States can also take longer to give the tests, extending the testing period into this summer or even the fall.

Rosenblum’s letter also says states will be allowed to seek waivers for school accountability measures, including the requirement to identify low-performing schools, for this school year, and a waiver for a requirement to test 95% of all eligible students.

We will have local reaction, as well as updates from the TEA, as they become available.

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at bethany.erickson@peoplenewspapers.com.

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