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State representative calls for suspension of Texas’ STAAR exam

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A state representative who has passed legislation aimed at reeling in Texas’ standardized testing regime is calling on the state to ditch required STAAR exams while it “tries to iron out STAAR’s many kinks.” 

State Rep. Jason Isaac’s proposal comes the week after the Texas Education Agency announced it was penalizing the New Jersey-based company that develops and administers the controversial exams more than $20 million over problems that surfaced during springtime testing — including computer glitches that caused students to lose answers. It is the first year Educational Testing Services has overseen STAAR administration after the state scrapped the bulk of its longtime contract with London-based Pearson Education. 

“Flawed testing practices threaten the State of Texas’ ability to fulfill our education system’s goals — and our children’s futures,” Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, said in a statement Monday. “The litany of errors being uncovered about STAAR is simply a disservice to our students, hard-working teachers, and families.” 

While the state works with ETS to resolve the issues, Isaac suggested “schools be given the freedom to choose from a variety of nationally normed standardized tests.” 

“School districts should not be hampered by an inefficient and ineffective system,” Isaac said. “Adding a dose of free-market philosophy to education by allowing a variety of standardized test options can only drive down costs and improve quality.” 

Last year, Isaac co-authored a bill that passed overwhelmingly requiring that 85 percent of elementary and middle school students be able to complete STAAR exams within two or three hours (two hours for 3rd through 5th grade; three hours for 6th through 8th grade.) House Bill 743 took effect last June. 

A group of parents is suing the education agency, alleging it did not comply with the law this year. 

“I hope my colleagues will join me when the 85th Legislative Session convenes in seeking transformational changes that will ensure that testing is a benefit, not a burden, to Texas’ students, teachers, and families,” Isaac said.  

The legislative session begins in January.  

After a group of parents sued the Texas Education Agency over the 2016 administration of STAAR exams, state lawyers argued they had no standing and asked the courts to drop the case. A Travis County district court judge has denied their request. 

A special panel recommending changes to the state’s public school testing and accountability system stopped short of proposing that Texas scrap the controversial assessment regime known as STAAR.

Disclosure: Educational Testing Service and Pearson have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here. 

  

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2016/08/29/state-rep-calls-suspension-staar/.

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