Each year, Texas students take STAAR exams, or the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness. With many schools, districts, students, and guardians experiencing massive shifts in education, including remote and synchronous learning, some expectations around the 2021 testing has changed.
Previously, Texas suspended the exams for the 2019–20 school year due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, this year, students are expected to take their exams.
The Texas Tribune summarizes the situation this way:
“State education officials confirmed recently that all public school students will be required to take the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR exams, in person at a monitored test site. But millions of Texas students are learning from home during the pandemic, and school districts have few tools in hand to force those worried about risking their health to show up for the tests.”“Many Texas students can skip STAAR tests this year, but high schoolers might have to show up to graduate”
In this post, we’ll outline some basic information on how the STAAR tests have changed for 2021. You can read the Texas Education Agency’s full Frequently Asked Questions document regarding 2020-21 STAAR tests here (PDF).
Is STAAR testing happening this year?
Yes. From the Dallas Morning News:
“[In February] federal officials told states that the Department of Education wouldn’t waive assessment requirements as was done last year after COVID-19 suddenly forced campuses to shut down. Texas schools will begin administering the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness exams in late March and early April, but the tests will be offered only in person at schools or alternate sites.”“Texas students can only take STAAR tests in person. These families plan to opt out.”
Who has to take STAAR tests?
Testing is administered for the following subjects and grade levels, according to the Texas Education Agency (TEA):
- Reading and mathematics, grades 3–8
- Writing at grades 4 and 7
- Science at grades 5 and 8
- Social studies at grade 8
- End-of-course (EOC) assessments for English I, English II, Algebra I, biology and U.S history
- STAAR English III and Algebra II are available for districts to administer as optional assessments.
When are tests administered?
This year, the state has extended some testing dates. You can view updates as a PDF here.
Tests are typically administered within testing “windows” at the end of each school year, from April through June. You can view the 2020-21 testing dates as a PDF here. You should also check your district’s testing calendar.
Will the tests be administered in person?
Yes. According to public education commissioner Mike Morath, the state is unable to conduct STAAR tests remotely. While students can have tests administered by computer, these exams are still conducted at in-person testing centers.
Will remote learners be required to take the test in person?
Not exactly. Remote learners who do not take STAAR tests at school or a testing site will be marked as receiving a score of “other.” From the Texas Education Agency:
“For any eligible student receiving remote instruction who does not go to the campus or designated testing site to take a STAAR, STAAR Alternate 2, or TELPAS online assessment in spring 2021, the district should indicate “O” for other in the SCORE CODE field and “0” under column D in the AGENCY USE field.”TEA STAAR Testing FAQ
Some students, parents, and guardians who have been learning remotely are opting not to take tests this year. In February, Morath told the Texas Tribune that, while the state cannot conduct the tests remotely, parents of remote learners not comfortable with in-person testing could stay home, saying it’s “not opting out of the STAAR test. It’s opting for remote education.”
What about students who are required to quarantine during testing dates?
These students will be marked as “absent.” From TEA:
“If a student is not able to take a STAAR, STAAR Alternate 2, TELPAS, or TELPAS Alternate assessment during the allowable testing window due to COVID-19 quarantine, then the student’s test should be marked “A” for absent.”TEA STAAR Testing FAQ
Will fifth and eighth grade students be held back from promotion if they do not take or pass their STAAR exams?
No. TEA has waived state requirements to retain students in grades 5 and 8 who do not meet grade level on the STAAR. Read more here.
TEA has also changed requirements for English learners to be reclassified as English Proficient. Read more here (PDF).
Will high school students be required to take STAAR end-of-course exams in order to graduate?
Probably. Legally, TEA cannot waive graduation requirements. From the agency:
“To meet assessment graduation requirements, students must have passed STAAR end-of-course (EOC) assessments (see TEC, Section 39.025(a)), scored high enough on a substitute assessment (e.g., SAT or ACT) (see TEC, Section 39.025), or met the requirements of an individual graduation committee (see TEC, Section 28.0258).
While this information is relevant to state requirements, there may be other potential requirements at the district or campus level.
There are likely negative academic consequences for those students unable to attend a safe proctored testing location given that neither the parent nor teachers working with the student will have access to state assessment results that provide an assessment of grade-level knowledge and skills or English language proficiency.”TEA STAAR Testing FAQ
Will schools face consequences for student absences from exams?
It’s possible. Schools are required to administer STAAR exams, as these assessments form a part of how schools themselves are evaluated.
The existing A-F school ratings, however, are currently paused. From TEA:
“However, while accountability consequences for school systems have been paused for this school year, school systems may be subject to agency review if excessive absences for the assessment occur.”TEA STAAR Testing FAQ
STAAR Testing Resources
- TEA STAAR Testing FAQ
- Texas Tribune: “Many Texas students can skip STAAR tests this year, but high schoolers might have to show up to graduate”
- Houston Chronicle: “Online students won’t have to take STAAR test, Texas Education Commissioner Morath says”