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LESSONS LEARNED | How STAAR testing will work for remote students

After canceling the STAAR test in Spring 2020, the TEA plans to resume testing, even for remote learners. East Texas schools are planning for a safe environment.

CHAPEL HILL, Texas — As of now, STAAR testing will go on for students across East Texas, even though the pandemic is far from over and many students are still learning remotely.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) canceled those plans for students last spring, but this year is a different situation.

Not every student is learning on campus over very real concerns about the Coronavirus and how it could impact the student or someone in their family.

Chapel Hill ISD's District Assessment and Accountability Coordinator says they've been planning and preparing for STAAR testing since it gets underway for some students in December before many more students test in the spring.

 "So, as we get ready to have STAAR testing in districts across Texas, how does that affect the people who are learning in virtual environments?" asked Dana Hughey, host of CBS19's The Morning Loop.

"So, that is a really good question and, you know, unfortunately, at this time, TEA is mandating that our remote learners have to still come and test face to face, just to try to provide equity for all," explained Josh Tremont, Chapel Hill ISD Assessment and Accountability Coordinator. 

Tremont says it's a challenge, but they're working hard to develop plans to keep those virtual learners safe during STAAR testing.

That's the state's way of measuring the extent to which a student has learned and is able to apply the knowledge and skills in a variety of courses, depending on their grade level.

"So, districts like Chapel Hill, we're doing everything in our power to still try to provide that security measures and safety tea has increased their online assessment window," said Tremont. "So, it's increased a five week window to try to provide some additional additional resources where students can test in smaller groups and test multiple days."

The first round of STAAR testing will begin the week of December 8. This is for high school students who need to retake a STAAR test or take it for the first time for other reasons.

"It's just very difficult to, you know, test with fidelity and integrity at home, because there's so many limiting factors that districts can control," said Tremont.

So, students on-campus will take the test during normal school hours, but depending on where your child goes to school you may have options for remote learners, like at Chapel Hill.

"We would look at beginning their assessment after the school day starts, so there's not much interaction with face to face learners," said Tremont. "They can come in, have a safe, secure area to check in, maintain that social distancing, and sit for their assessment. Then, when they finish, they're able to log off and return home."

Tremont says they've already reached out to their virtual learners about how STAAR testing will work for them this school year because staff and teachers understand testing alone causes stress and anxiety, then you pile on pandemic health concerns — it's a lot.

"We are trying to provide comfort," said Tremont. "And so, we want to continue to reduce that testing anxiety. You know, even though the pandemic is going on, we don't want them to add any pressure or just concerns with anything." 

About 100 students at Chapel Hill ISD will be taking the STAAR test in December. 

"You know, we're fortunate to have a small sample size to kind of work through this and work out, you know, any kinks that we might not foresee," said Tremont.

Because come spring, the numbers of remote learners could be much larger with testing taking place for students in third through eighth grade and at the high school level, but Chapel Hill says student safety remains their priority.

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