Houston News : Texas Gov. Greg Abbott suspends STAAR testing requirements over coronavirus

0
94


Gov. Greg Abbott answers media questions on coronavirus as he and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick meet with public officials at the State Operations Center in Austin on Feb. 27, 2020.

Gov. Greg Abbott answers media questions on coronavirus as he and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick meet with public officials at the State Operations Center in Austin on Feb. 27, 2020.

Photo: Tom Reel, San Antonio Express-News / Staff Photographer

Photo: Tom Reel, San Antonio Express-News / Staff Photographer

Gov. Greg Abbott answers media questions on coronavirus as he and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick meet with public officials at the State Operations Center in Austin on Feb. 27, 2020.

Gov. Greg Abbott answers media questions on coronavirus as he and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick meet with public officials at the State Operations Center in Austin on Feb. 27, 2020.

Photo: Tom Reel, San Antonio Express-News / Staff Photographer

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott suspends STAAR testing requirements over coronavirus

Almost all school districts in the Greater Houston area will extend their campus closures until at least April 10 after originally saying they would remain closed for one to two weeks.

The announcements from individual districts Monday came hours after Gov. Greg Abbott waived the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, testing requirements for the 2019-2020 school year, and after the U.S. Centers for Disease control recommended limiting gatherings to fewer than 10 people.

In a statement on his office website, the governor also said he is calling on the U.S. Department of Education to waive federal testing requirements for this school year.

Abbott said he is working with the Texas Education Agency to ensure students still receive instruction and that students with disabilities have the same access to education as their peers.

Locally, all superintendents in the TEA’s Region IV, which encompasses most of greater Houston, said they decided to keep schools closed until after Easter and that they would evaluate whether to reopen them on April 6.

Elizabeth Celania-Fagen, superintendent of Humble ISD, said the extended closures will allow the state to test more people and, with that data, better know how the virus is spreading and what actions need to be taken.

More Information

The following Houston-area school districts will be closed until at least April 10, unless otherwise noted:

Aldine ISD

Alief ISD

Alvin ISD

Channelview ISD

Clear Creek ISD

Conroe ISD

Crosby ISD

Cy-Fair ISD

Dickinson ISD

Fort Bend ISD

Friendswood ISD

Galena Park ISD

Goose Creek CISD

Houston ISD

Huffman ISD

Humble ISD

Katy ISD

Klein ISD

Lamar CISD

La Porte ISD

Magnolia ISD

Montgomery ISD

New Caney ISD (until April 20)

Pasadena ISD

Pearland ISD

Santa Fe ISD

Spring ISD

Spring Branch ISD

Sheldon ISD

Stafford MSD

Tomball ISD

Waller ISD

Willis ISD

“It’s definitely evolving every day, but health experts have been pretty clear that four weeks is far more helpful than two,” Fagen said. “We need more time to collect more data, and we need to give our healthcare systems more time.”

With schools across the state in limbo, state officials canceled Texas’ high stakes standardized testing, which was slated to begin in April. Traditionally, students in grades 5, 8 and 12 must pass certain state-issued exams to advance to the next grade level or graduate, though some still can move on if given approval by a district committee.

However, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said in a conference call with education and government officials on Monday that the state delegate decisions around grade level promotion and graduation requirements to each district, the Houston Chronicle has learned.

Morath said he and educators across the state remain concerned that school closures related to COVID-19 will impact students’ academic growth. To that end, Morath said the TEA will make available “free tools to diagnose student learning.”

TEA officials said they are looking for ways that schools could administer the STAAR test if any local district leaders decide they want students to take it. That decision would be up to individual districts.

The STAAR announcement was the first bit of good news Aldine ISD Superintendent LaTonya Goffney had heard in days.

“I was just relieved and could actually breathe once the announcement was made,” Goffney said. “Regardless of what’s happening, we’re always worried and concerned about our students performing, but what this enabled us to be able to do is to take care of our students’ needs and our community’s needs. I was grateful.”

In Aldine, Humble and elsewhere, school districts are turning toward online instruction to try to keep students progressing. While some families lack access to internet, companies like Comcast are offering several weeks of free internet to lower-income households, and education leaders hope that will mean more of their students will be able to access video lessons and worksheets online. For those who cannot get access to the internet, schools are working to make paper packets available to students.

Almost every local district also began curbside meal distributions on Monday because many of their students rely on free and reduced meals as their sole source of nutrition during the day. Aldine ISD’s 22 sites, for example, served a few hundred people breakfast and about 2,500 lunches. Officials expect that number to grow once more families learn of the service.

Goffney said not worrying about STAAR preparation and administration will allow her team to focus more on those aspects of their response to COVID-19. Abbott said that was the purpose of the waiver — to emphasize public health over other priorities as the virus continues to spread.

“Your health and safety are top priorities, and the state of Texas will give school districts flexibility to protect and ensure the health of students, faculty, and their families,” Abbott said. “We will empower schools to make the best decisions to protect their communities from COVID-19.”

Greg Smith, superintendent of Clear Creek ISD, said he knows all the upheaval and extended closures will be difficult for families. Still, he said, there is hope.

“Before you know it our schools and our school halls will be bustling with children, and I for one cannot wait,” Smith said. “Until then, let’s take care of each other.”

Reporter Jacob Carpenter contributed to this story.

[email protected]



in Houston

Source : chron.com