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Districts Struggle to Meet Tutoring Requirements for Failed STAAR Tests

Education, Featured

STAAR test logo | Image by inforney.com

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A new law that Texas legislatures passed last year requires schools to provide tutoring for students who failed state tests, but its requirements are reportedly unachievable for some school districts.

According to The Dallas Morning News, labor shortages have set back the schools’ ability to meet the law’s standards for helping students that have fallen behind.

As a result of the pandemic, there were over two million failed elementary and middle school STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) exams across the state. Some students failed multiple exams, while others did not take them.

The new law states Texas schools have to provide at least 30 hours of tutoring to a student that failed or missed a state exam. However, the 30-hour requirement applies to each failed exam individually, meaning that number adds up for students who failed multiple tests.

Per the DMN, even though school districts used federal funding to hire additional tutors, they still struggled with staffing. Some school leaders expressed they do not have the capacity to provide the required tutoring time for students — not only do hundreds of students need to be tutored, but some would also need hundreds of hours of tutoring.

Under current guidelines, a middle schooler who missed all four STAAR exams would have to undergo 120 hours of tutoring.

“It’s physically impossible for us to meet the requirements of [the law] under the current model,” Michael Hinojosa, the Dallas ISD Superintendent said.

According to State Representative Dan Huberty, some state legislators expected school districts would not be able to meet the requirements this year.

Huberty told the DMN the state Legislature will review the issue and possibly alter the law for 2023.

The Texas Education Agency told schools that compliance won’t be strictly enforced this year, “as long as districts are making reasonable efforts to meet the requirements and there is no evidence of willful non-compliance.”

However, a spokesman for the agency, Frank Ward, expressed concern about the possible impact on students if the requirements are not met.

“This would mean that students entitled to vitally important supplemental instruction may not be prepared to engage and be successful with grade-level material now and in the future,” Ward stated in an email.

Director of elementary teaching and learning for Frisco ISD Mary Webb claimed the rigid state guidelines have made things more difficult.

“We want to be able to respond to our kids’ needs, but this bill has made us react,” Webb said. “The thought behind [the law] was a good thought. But when you put all these rules and one way of doing it when you’re in this state, it’s not going to meet everything.”

Representative Harold Dutton, who wrote the law districts are currently struggling with, said the requirements are in place because allowing students that are doing poorly to continue failing is not an option.

“I hope it engenders a conversation about how we go about improving public education, not only for all children, but children who are at the bottom,” Dutton told the DMN. “We have to recognize that we don’t have any choice but to get them off the bottom, and it’s to our benefit to do that.”

While Dallas ISD originally sought out 1,800 staff members to address the student tutoring guidelines, officials stated the real number necessary is much higher. The district will continue tutoring through the summer, but the number of students who will be helped depends heavily on staffing.

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