Schools could get STAAR test waivers

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by JIM BERGAMO and MATT OLSEN

KVUE News

Posted on February 14, 2012 at 11:54 AM

AUSTIN -- There is big news regarding controversial new STAAR tests that are replacing TAKS in Texas schools. 

According to a letter sent Monday from Texas senators to the Texas Education Agency, the agency can approve waivers for this year that would keep test scores from counting in a student's final grade. The decision now puts the ball in each district's court. 

The Austin Independent School District feels this gives them some much-needed time to adjust to a brand new set of state standards.

The letter from senators came just hours before AISD's Board of Trustees meeting. If a district chooses, it can ask to wait a year to start counting grades from STAAR tests.

"Oh! I think that the letter does change the presentation that I will be giving," said AISD's Director of Intergovernmental Relations and Policy Oversight Christy Rome.

Rome says the STAAR tests will still take place next month.

"The question right now on the table is how well will the performance on that test influence the student's grade," she said. 

Current law says 15 percent of a student's grade must be determined by that performance. The letter now gives the TEA commissioner the power to delay that for one year if districts ask for a waiver.

"It is a pretty special day for us," said AISD Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen. "I think everyone will be relieved to see that we have a little more time to plan for this and do it in a responsible way."

Parents KVUE spoke to say they are encouraged by the letter but are still waiting to see what action is taken by the TEA. They say they remain skeptical of the new STAAR test.

"We do not have any knowledge if the tests are matching the curriculum that is being taught," said Dineen Majcher, whose daughter is a freshman at Anderson High School. "The state and all the districts have been given a waiver on applicability from federal accountability, yet the students have not. They want to include that in the grades and that is just wrong for this year."

Some parents say if a year from now they are still not happy with how the STAAR test impacts their children's final grades, they will make their voices heard at the next legislative session.

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