COVID-19: Texas and K-12 Education

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Standard Education Assessments In Texas

The state of Texas has two primary standardized testing systems used for students from kindergarten through 12th grade: STAAR and TELPAS. In addition to these, the TSI is a state-run standardized test "which determines the appropriate level of college course work for an incoming student". Each program varies in what is tested and which grades it is administered to. More information about each has been provided below.

Overview

  • The Texas Education Agency (TEA) comprises three primary "student assessment program[s], including the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR), the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) and the Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System (TELPAS)".
  • The TAKS was discontinued during the 2017-2018 school year. Since that time, any student for whom a TAKS was previously required for graduation has two options: (1) he/she may "request a strict decision" from their most recent high-school, which will be based on their in-class and regular testing performance; or (2) he/she may take and perform satisfactorily on the SAT, ACT, TSI, and/or STAAR.
  • "Texas’ student assessment program is designed to measure the extent to which a student has learned and is able to apply the knowledge and skills at each tested grade or course identified in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). The state assessment program is fully aligned to the TEKS, the statewide curriculum required to be taught."
  • While STAAR and TELPAS are the only existing standardized testing programs in the state, the TEA also provides a number of other free and 100 percent optional assessments which can be used in between standardized tests in order to assess students' progress.
  • In addition to these standardized testing programs operated by the TEA, the state of Texas also administers the Texas Success Initiative Assessment (TSI), which is taken by incoming college freshman to determine their level of coursework.

STAAR

  • The STAAR, or the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, comprises a number of standardizes tests administered to students between third and eighth grade as well as in high-school.
  • For students in third through eighth grade, the program includes testing for math, reading, writing, science, and social studies, with specific tests being determined based on a student's grade level. More specifically, students in third through eighth grade are tested on reading and math, students in fourth and seventh grade are tested on writing, grades five and eight are tested on science, and students in eighth grade are tested on social studies.
  • As well, the program includes "end-of-course (EOC) assessments for English I, English II, Algebra I, biology and U.S. history", which are administered to high-school students in the state.
  • While the STAAR wasn't introduced until 2012, that is the primary standardized testing program used today in Texas.

TELPAS

TSI

  • The TSI, or Texas Success Initiative Assessment, "is a program which determines the appropriate level of college course work for an incoming student", and was enacted by the Texas State Legislature.
  • This test includes three sections, for math, reading, and writing, and has been required of incoming college freshman since about 2010.
  • Students are required to meet a minimum scoring threshold for each section: 350 for math and 351 for reading. For the writing section, students must obtain "a score of 5 on the essay section or a score of 4 on the essay and a minimum score of 340 on the multiple-choice section".
  • "Although there are several criteria which exempt a student from the need for this program, many incoming college students in Texas will be required to take them. Other than the essay portion, the exams themselves are multiple choice and computer adaptive, as questions increase or decrease in difficulty based upon previous answers."
  • As noted above, there are a number of potential exemptions for students eligible for the TSI, such as college-to-college transfer or a certain score on the SAT's.
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COVID-19: Texas Education

School Closures

  • Per an executive order issued on March 31, 2020 and pursuant to President Donal Trump's recommendations concerning social distancing practices, Governor Greg Abbott has closed all schools in the state at least through May 4, 2020.
  • Schools in the state were first closed on March 19, 2020, when Governor Abbott announced an executive order which called for all social gatherings of more than 10 people to be discontinued. As well, the order closed all gyms, required all bars and restaurants to convert to take-out and delivery only, and prohibited visits to nursing homes except in cases of "critical care".
  • While this first executive order was set to expire on April 3, 2020, Abbott extended it through May 4, 2020 with his March 31 executive order.
  • While schools in Texas are typically required to fill "75,600 operational minutes" throughout the school year, the TEA is issuing waivers to this requirement in light of school closures throughout the state. "Those waivers would be granted as long as the LEA commits to supporting students instructionally while at home".

Continuing Education

  • While Texas schools are closed, multiple state agencies are working together to ensure students continue their education programs. This includes TEA, DSHS, and TDEM.
  • "The Texas Education Agency (TEA) continues to work with the Office of the Governor, Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) to coordinate and plan the state’s response to COVID-19. TEA’s role in these efforts is to help coordinate the flow of information from the state to districts, help districts solve problems, and provide guidance that will aid in districts’ decision-making. TEA does not have the general authority to close schools for matters related to health. This authority lies with the local health authority, DSHS, and the Governor of Texas."
  • That said, specific ongoing education programs are being designed by individual schools and school districts, and have not been outlined or enforced by any statewide agency.
  • The majority of schools in the state have transitioned to online learning while out of session. While no statewide requirements have been issued concerning distance learning in light of school closures, the TEA will only issue missed school-day waivers to those districts supporting at-home learning for their students.
  • Despite the fact that the state has not issued any requirements concerning at-home learning, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has released resources for those schools which are practicing online learning due to school closures. However, these resources are not required, and are instead simply intended as a support system for students adjusting to changing programs.
  • Additional resources provided by TEA can be found on their website.

Standardized Testing

  • Standardized tests administered by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), such as STAAR, have been canceled as a result of COVID-19.
  • This decision was made by Governor Abbott, who announced on March 16, 2020 that all standardized testing requirements for the state would be waived for the 2019-2020 school year.
  • "He also said he would ask the federal government to waive this year's federal standardized testing requirements, which apply to all states."
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