Education Commissioner Expands on Decision to Scrap School Test Scores

Education Commissioner Mike Morath expanded Monday on his decision to waive requirements for 5th and 8th graders who failed this year's STAAR exams, saying that a delay in the return of test scores forced the need to take action.

Education Commissioner Mike Morath expanded Monday on his decision to waive requirements for 5th and 8th graders who failed this year's STAAR exams, saying that a delay in the return of test scores forced the need to take action.

In a blog post on the Texas Education Agency website, Morath said his decision came after Educational Testing Service, the New Jersey-based company that developed this year's examinations, did not send test scores to students in a number of districts. Some parents weren't clear on whether they would need to put their children in summer school as a result of their scores.

"This has caused many districts and parents a large amount of confusion, as the districts don’t precisely know which students would be statutorily required to enroll in these summer learning programs and parents haven’t had results for their kids," Morath wrote in the posting. "Given the delays from ETS, we issued guidance encouraging districts to make accelerated instruction decisions entirely on their own, rather than wait and attempt to guess at STAAR results that hadn’t yet been received."

Fifth and 8th graders who failed State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness exams this year won’t be held back a grade or be required to retest later this month, Morath announced Friday. 

Morath wrote that his guidance effectively exempted districts from utilizing results from the STAAR exams, contributing to his decision announced on Friday. ETS has denied it lost any tests.

The STAAR exams taken by 5th and 8th graders are the only ones between 3rd and 8th grade subject to retest if students fail, Morath said.

He emphasized that the decision does not suspend the results of the test, only the "follow-up required actions from STAAR." He said the scores of this year's STAAR exams will still be used to determine campus and district accountability ratings.

The blog post also addressed the timing of the announcement, which was released late Friday.

"We decided to issue the letter and news release immediately — right after the decision was made — to inform parents and ensure school systems had as much time as possible to decide on summer school enrollment," Morath wrote.

Disclosure: Educational Testing Service has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.