Texas' mandatory end-of-year tests are canceled this year, but state education officials have come up with a way for parents to make their kids take them anyway.
The Texas Education Agency is rolling out an optional online end-of-year test that school districts and parents across the state can use to see how much ground their students have lost academically during the coronavirus shutdowns, a trend that education officials are calling the COVID slide.
The online tests will cover the same subjects and grade levels as the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR. Officials say the test doesn't take the place of the STAAR, which Gov. Greg Abbott canceled earlier this year after school districts across the state closed schools and began conducting classes online in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Writing assessments won't include a writing prompt, but will be multiple choice only. Tests won't be offered for algebra II and English III.
In a news release, TEA officials said the tests are designed to help parents and school districts understand how prepared their students are for the 2020-21 school year.
"This free diagnostic tool will highlight the student progress that has been made, while also bringing to light any gaps that may have emerged during this atypical school year," officials said. "The results of this optional testing will provide valuable data that informs further instructional support school systems can provide this summer and into the coming school year. It is very important to note that TEA is not requiring these (end-of-year) assessments and will not collect testing data for any accountability purposes.
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Education leaders have expressed concern about the toll the shutdowns will take on students' long-term academic outlooks. In a report released last month, researchers with the nonprofit Northwest Evaluation Association predicted substantial learning losses from the coronavirus shutdown.
The effects are expected to be most severe in math, according to the projection. Students in most grades could come back to school in the fall with less than half of the math learning gains they made during the current school year. For students in some grades, the shutdown could wipe out nearly all of the progress they made this year.
The effects are expected to be less severe in reading. On average, students are projected to come back to school in the fall with about 70% of the learning they gained the year before.
Registration for the exams continues through June 5. Parents will be able to administer the test at home through June 12. To sign up, fill out the registration form on the agency's website.