Austin, TX-- As Texas goes, so goes the nation, as the saying goes. Hard to imagine the state of education when a state as big as Texas can't administer state-mandated STARR testing without some major hitches. Last year the state received a reprieve from the state-mandated testing, due to learning issues and remote learning while teachers and students flubbed their way through a year of teaching and learning.
In November of 2020, state representatives asked for a reprieve:
Should the test still be administered during the coronavirus pandemic, it “should only serve as a diagnostic instrument to see where our students stand academically as opposed to an assessment instrument to determine district and campus sanctions,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.
And the state honored the request.
This school year, the state released its warning early that no such reprieve would be issued and that the STARR test would be available for all students as a measure of their academic performance. Students who wish not to take the STAAR test at the elementary and middle school levels would not be penalized, but those at the high school level are encouraged to take the test. High school seniors do not have the option to take the test and need to be able to pass the STAAR test so that they can graduate.
In Austin, many students continue to be in learn-from-home environments and virtual learning. Many students went to school in person, some for the first time since quarantine started. As some nervous students entered the school for the first time they were anxious and unsure what to expect.
Imagine how butterflies in the stomach and uneasiness about taking the state test are quickly magnified as students sit in classrooms because some can't log on to the system due to widespread technical issues across the state. Already anxious students were told to wait while test administrators tried to learn more information.
“If your students have been able to access the test, they should continue testing. If your students have not been able to access the test, they should be dismissed from testing until the issue has been resolved,” the message from the Texas Education Agency said.
The TEA says it has plans to fully automate the STAAR test for the 2022-2023 academic year.
“We understand the frustration this has caused students, parents, teachers, and administrators,” the TEA statement said. “What happened today is completely unacceptable.”
An email from the Austin Independent School District alerted parents that there were technical difficulties administering the STARR test and that normal school routine would resume and the STAAR test would be rescheduled. Thousands of students in Austin were allowed to call parents and granted permission to leave school for the remainder of the school day on Tuesday.
“All involved in public education in Texas should expect better than what they have experienced today,” TEA announced. “We are working to ensure that our students do not experience future testing issues.”
Students in Austin ISD waited for two hours, twiddling their thumbs in person to take the test. Some teachers reported a shortage of devices within their districts for students to take the online test. Students slug themselves homeward and realize that on another day they'll have to return to take the test all over again. Under normal circumstances, the test takes about 4-5 hours.
In Texas and in Austin, the STAAR test will happen on some other day yet to be announced, after the technical difficulties are resolved.
These circumstances are ones that hopefully do not ripple across the nation.