NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – With kids back in school after winter break, much attention turns to the standardized tests, like the STAAR tests, which typically take place at the end of the school year.

The Texas Education Agency recently announced students will be taking the STAAR tests this spring; however, there will be some traditional elements missing from the tests. Accountability decisions, like grade promotions that are often tied to the STAAR tests, will not be included this year.

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“The TEA and commissioner Morath have said accountability will be disconnected from the test this year, and we think that is a smart decision,” Anne Wicks said.

Anne Wicks is the Director of the Education Reform Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute. She says standardized tests, like the STAAR tests, were created to hold districts accountable to ensure every child is meeting academic milestones they need to be.

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In the 2020-2021 school year, where so much learning is being done virtually and through non-traditional means, she says standardized testing is needed more than ever. She says test results need to be analyzed this year so that policy makers, district leaders, campus leaders and teachers can understand which students are not grasping the material and falling behind academically.

“Given the early data we have seen with learning loss with black students, Latinx students, English language learners, students in poverty and special ed students, I just think we have to pay special attention to how all kids are doing in Texas, so that adults in the system can marshal resources to serve kids and help them get back on track,” Wicks says.

Another big difference with STAAR tests in 2021 will be the absence of district ratings. In normal years, schools and districts are rated on an A to F scale, in part by STAAR test results, but that element will be missing this year as districts throughout Texas continue to navigate through the pandemic.

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Madison Sawyer