After over two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, things are returning to normal in public schools throughout Texas. One signal of normalcy within the state’s education system is the announcement that Texas schools will once again receive ratings based on standardized test scores via the STAAR.
For the first time since March of 2020, Texas public schools will receive ratings based on student performance on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test. This testing applies to the 8,866 public schools, including 782 charter schools, of the Lone Star State, The Texas Tribune reports.
While the ratings have returned, a few notable changes come with the updated scoring system. For the current year, schools will only receive ratings of A, B, or C. Schools and districts that score a D or F will receive a “Not Rated” designation.
This system will “protect” lower-performing schools from receiving potential sanctions levied by the Texas Education Agency over the 2022-2023 academic year.
In addition, districts that still carry a D or F rating from 2019 will have the opportunity to earn a higher rating.
Thousands of Texas students in grades 3 through 12 have taken the STAAR exam this spring. In 2021, STAAR testing was optional for students and schools, and districts were not held accountable for the results.
The optional testing results of 2021 suggested that the pandemic and resulting school closures significantly affected learning, with scores trending far lower than before the pandemic.
This drop in performance across the board was particularly evident in math.
Additionally, schools that opened sooner to in-person instruction appeared to score higher than schools that stayed in the virtual space for a more extended period.
The STAAR tests measure schools and districts on three criteria: student achievement, student progress, and how effectively the school closes its learning gaps. Student achievement and progress are weighted more heavily in the grading system. The subjects tested include reading, math, science, and social studies.
KSAT reports that Monty Exter, a lobbyist with the Association of Texas Professional Educators, says the testing incentivizes teachers and administrators to teach to the test rather than spending meaningful classroom time on what truly matters for a child’s education
“Teaching people how to test is frankly a completely worthless skill,” he said.
Superintendent of the Seguin Independent School District Matthew Gutierrez also fears that the test results will be skewed due to intermittent school closings due to COVID-19. Consequently, he believes letter grades should have been postponed.