Citing the education effects of COVID-19, Rep. Cody Harris (R-Palestine) has asked the Texas Education Agency to suspend standardized tests, called STARR, for the 2020-2021 school year.
In a letter Thursday to Commissioner Mike Morath, Harris called for suspending STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) and adjusting requirements for waivers and funding. STARR is a series of standardized tests used in Texas public primary and secondary schools to assess grade-level student achievement and knowledge.
“In an academic year when our kids are already going to be behind due to the state-wide shutdown, the last thing we need is for our teachers and students to be focusing on how to pass the STAAR test,” said Harris. “When there is so much to disagree on, this is an easy one that we should all be able to rally around, regardless of political ideology.”
Harris said pubic schools need to focus on education and makeup for instruction time lost this past year.
Harris represents more than 30 independent school districts in Anderson , Navarro, Hill, and Freestone Counties. He said he has regularly communicated with local school administrators and educators regarding how the Texas Education Agency should respond to the pandemic.
“The overwhelming consensus is that our teachers need to be able to focus on educating out students, not preparing them for a test,” said Harris. “If you believe that STARR testing must resume, then we should not penalize students based on their performance of the 2020-2021 test.”
“Palestine Independent School District appreciates Harris’ understanding the extreme impact school closures has had on student learning,” said PISD spokesperson Larissa Loveless. “Teachers, parents and students have worked hard to continue instruction. However, students have not made the same academic gains they would have if they were attending school.”
In a letter to parents in the Westwood Independent School District, Superintendent Wade Stanford supported Harris’ efforts and encouraged parents and community members to contact Gov. Gregg Abbott and Commissioner Morath.
“Thank you, Rep. Cody Harris for speaking out on behalf of our community and kids by asking Commissioner Mike Morath to postpone STAAR testing,” Stanford said on social media. “We are so grateful for your support. Put education first, not standardized testing.”