Education News

Because of Harvey, Texas Education Commissioner Gives Some Students Break on Testing

However, the state accountability system and steep sanctions remain in place for school districts impacted by Harvey.

Typically, the Texas Education Agency requires students in the fifth and eighth grades to pass the state standardized test, known as the STAAR, in order to move on to the next grade.
Typically, the Texas Education Agency requires students in the fifth and eighth grades to pass the state standardized test, known as the STAAR, in order to move on to the next grade.

The Texas Education Commissioner has taken his first steps to relax some testing and accountability rules in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

In a notice to school districts Thursday, Commissioner Mike Morath announced that students in the fifth and eighth grades won’t be automatically held back if they don’t pass the state standardized exam. That’s if their counties were declared federal disaster zones because of Harvey. Typically, those students have to retest and pass the test, known as the STAAR, in order to move on to the next grade and have their status reviewed by a committee.

The change drew cheers at the Houston school board meeting Thursday night.

But Superintendent Richard Carranza quickly noted the state accountability system remains in place — and that the Houston school board still faces the threat of state takeover if it doesn’t improve its chronically failing schools this year.

“This is not, this is not a pause on accountability for schools affected by Harvey,” Carranza told the board.

In fact, Morath also told superintendents that testing will start as planned in the spring and follow the current schedule.

That’s one reason why some see his decision as a publicity move. 

“No one wants to be against children who have been impacted by Harvey, no one wants to be seen as holding them back,” said Ben Becker, a Houston parent and education advocate. “But what will be worse than having your school shut down or your elected school board replaced simply because the district and these schools don’t do well?”

Those are both potential sanctions under the current accountability system.

Many Texas superintendents along the Gulf Coast have pushed for more relaxing of state accountability standards this year because so many students and teachers were displaced and missed school days.

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Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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