No STAAR re­prieve for school dis­tricts af­fected by Har­vey

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By Julie Chang jchang@states­man.com Test­ing

De­spite pleas by some of­fi­cials from school dis­tricts af­fected by Hur­ri­cane Har­vey, the state ed­u­ca­tion com­mis­sioner told law­mak­ers Tues­day that it will be dif­fi­cult to de­lay stu­dent test­ing or sus­pend test­ing re­quire­ments al­to­gether this school year.

Com­mis­sioner Mike Mo­rath told mem­bers of the House Pub­lic Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mit­tee that he doesn’t have the au­thor­ity to per­mit stu­dents in Har­vey-af­fected ar­eas not to take the State of Texas As­sess­ments of Aca­demic Readi­ness. The test is tied to fed­eral fund­ing, which makes up about 10 per­cent of the state’s ed­u­ca­tion bud­get.

Mo­rath said de­lay­ing STAAR ad­min­is­tra­tion also could cre­ate fur­ther dif­fi­cul­ties for school dis­tricts, in­clud­ing push­ing the last day of school fur­ther into the sum­mer and af­fect­ing sum­mer school sched­ules.

Mo­rath said that sus­pend­ing the STAAR wouldn’t help stu­dents ei­ther.

“The pur­pose of these as­sess­ments is to de­ter­mine grade level mas­tery in read­ing and math. The pur­pose of the test is to in­form us to what stu­dents know. Not is­su­ing a test ... blinds you to that in­for­ma­tion,” Mo­rath said, adding that he will make a fi­nal de­ci­sion on po­ten­tial test­ing changes in the next two weeks.

Har­vey ripped through 60 coun­ties along the Texas coast in late Au­gust, forc­ing 1.4 mil­lion stu­dents to miss at least some school. About 19,000 stu­dents are still liv­ing in dam­aged homes or in other tem­po­rary hous­ing, ac­cord­ing to the Texas Ed­u­ca­tion Agency.

Agency of­fi­cials have been scram­bling to pro­vide some re­lief to school dis­tricts, in­clud­ing cre­at­ing a men­tal health task force to help trau­ma­tized teach­ers and stu­dents and pro­vid­ing waivers so that school dis­tricts won’t lose fund­ing this school year be­cause of drops in stu­dent en­roll­ment af­ter Har­vey.

STEPHEN SPILLMAN /

Texas Ed­u­ca­tion Agency Com­mis­sioner Mike Mo­rath tes­ti­fies at the Capi­tol on Tues­day.

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