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Waiver for lower grades, single testing date among STAAR changes this school year
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Waiver for lower grades, single testing date among STAAR changes this school year

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For the 2020-2021 school year, the state has waived the requirement for students in fifth and eighth grade to pass the STAAR test in reading and math to advance to the next grade level.

The July 27 announcement also states students will have one opportunity in May to take the test, rather than three opportunities from April to June like in a typical year.

With the Student Success Initiative waived, the districts would be responsible for deciding whether students who do not pass the test can move on to the next grade.

Leslie Holtkamp, director of curriculum and instruction at the Bryan school district, said the district will determine promotion based on board policy, just as it does for students in other grade levels. Among the areas used to determine promotion are student achievement and performance in the class, mastery of the subject matter and the curriculum outlined by the state and the student’s social and emotional wellbeing, she said.

“We want to make good decisions for our students, especially during this uncertain time right now,” Holtkamp said.

To adjust to the changes, she said, the district will adjust its assessment calendar and its curriculum to meet the needs of students and teachers.

Molley Perry, chief administrative officer for College Station schools, said the decision to promote will fall to the grade placement committee, which is in place for students in second through eighth grades, and looks at core content areas.

Referencing the most recent Texas Academic Performance Report, she said, of the 16% of fifth graders who did not pass the reading assessment, 97% were promoted by the student’s district’s grade placement committee.

She said the change could be beneficial to students and teachers because the one-time administration means the test will be given about a month later, giving students more time to learn concepts.

“That’s honestly the bigger benefit,” she said. “I think when looking at promotion versus retention, ultimately, very few students across the state are retained based on STAAR.”

Holtkamp noted any future changes to the STAAR testing requirement will be decided by the state, but said the district will abide by any decisions made.

Perry said she is hopeful the circumstances and the changes for this year will reassess how standardized testing is done.

“I think over time, people are really coming to see that standardized performance on tests does not equate to success in life,” she said, noting employers are looking more for people with interpersonal and problem-solving skills, who can work collaboratively and think in innovative and creative ways.

“Those are not the kinds of things that you can capture on a multiple choice test. So my hope is that policy makers would realize through this opportunity that there are better ways to assess learning and perhaps we can really rethink a lot of how we are measuring success for students.”

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