Spring STAAR tests start this week, and Education Commissioner Mike Morath recently sent a letter to administrators highlighting three recent changes he hopes will make testing less stressful this year:

Time to test

The time to administer tests has been shortened. TEA expects the majority of students in grades 3-5 will complete the test within two hours. Most students in grades 6-8 will finish in three hours.

"I want to encourage districts to allow students to leave the testing environment after they complete the test, or perhaps otherwise organize test administration so that only those students who need more time remain in a testing environment," Morath wrote in the letter.

Medical exemptions

TEA is working with districts to clarify testing options for students with medical emergencies. Morath asks administrators to call the Student Assessment Division to discuss specific cases.

Classroom displays during testing

TEA has relaxed its rules about what classroom instructional displays must be removed or covered before testing begins. Only materials that provide answers to potential test questions must be removed.

"But if in your judgment (instructional displays) won’t provide answers to possible questions, they certainly don’t need to be covered. For example, it’s hard to imagine the visibility of a word wall helping a student answer a question, and so there’s no need to cover them. But a listing of literary terms with their definitions potentially could help a child answer a question," Morath wrote. "Regardless, we want you to use your judgment, and don’t see a need to err on the side of sterility."

STAAR testing is March 28-31. Click here for the complete testing calendar. For more information, TEA's Student Assessment Division may be reached at 512-463-9536.