AUSTIN (AP) — Texas high school students won’t have to worry about new standardized testing known as STAAR affecting their grades this year, thanks to a one-year wavier signed Friday by the state’s education chief.

Robert Scott, head of the Texas Education Agency, signed an order postponing until the 2012-2013 school year a requirement that State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness results count toward 15 percent of the final grades of some high school students in core subjects.

His move came after Sen. Florence Shapiro, head of the Texas Senate Education Committee, and three other committee members from both parties wrote Scott a letter clarifying that he had the authority to delay requirements that the test impact grades under legislation that created STAAR. It said the reprieve would give school officials more time to fully implement the exam and way its impact.

Rep. Rob Eissler, chairman of the House Public Education Committee then gave Scott a separate letter signed by himself and 113 other House members containing similar guidance.
The requirement had been designed to ensure students take the test seriously. But it has angered some young people, parents and superintendents, who say doing poorly on the STAAR exam could hurt grades and make Texas students less attractive to university admissions boards.

The new testing system replaces the much-maligned Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test beginning this school year. Lawmakers insist they support the added accountability the new test will mean for students, teachers and school districts and that simply putting off the impact on grades by a year won’t undermine the test.
STAAR includes tests for grades three to eight. Then in high school, 12 tests will be given at the end of courses in Algebra I and II; geometry; biology; chemistry; physics; English I, II and III; world geography; world history; and U.S. history. Their results had been slated to count toward final grades.

Adding to critics’ concerns was the fact that some school districts had already decided that while high school STAAR tests were meant to affect grades, they wouldn’t change students’ existing grade point averages or class ranks. Those instead were calculated without STAAR scores that wouldn’t be ready until the end of the year.

Other districts had withheld GPAs, however, until the test results were ready. Scott’s move will force those districts to change those rules for this year.

STAAR will also eventually be used to help authorities evaluate the quality of instruction in schools, but districts had already been given a year’s delay from consequences of the test results as they implement the new testing system.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)