The Texas Education Agency is moving forward with the spring administrations of STAAR, STAAR Alternate 2, TELPAS and TELPAS Alternate, but it will seek a waiver to suspend A-F school accountability ratings for the 2020-21 school year due to the ongoing COVID-19 disruptions.

TCTA and others continue to call for the cancellation of these tests. Since disruption to learning will likely continue throughout the school year, results are unlikely to be an accurate representation of learning. But TEA says it remains critical that parents, educators and policymakers understand the impact of the pandemic on student learning.

In its Spring 2021 Assessment Guidance (01/14/21), TEA said the state tests will be administered on school campuses or at other secure alternative testing sites to ensure the results remain valid and reliable. TEA is requiring all students, even those who have been learning remotely, to be present at a monitored testing session and to be supervised by a trained test administrator.

According to TEA, any eligible student receiving remote instruction who does not go to the campus or designated testing site to take a STAAR, STAAR Alternate 2, or TELPAS online assessment in spring 2021, should be coded as “O” for other in the score code field. TEA added that if these students are scheduled to take end-of-course assessments for STAAR or STAAR Alternate 2, they will miss an opportunity to meet graduation requirements, and English Learners will miss an opportunity to potentially be reclassified as English proficient.

Students who are in COVID-19 quarantine during the testing window should be marked "A" for absent, TEA said, noting that there are extended testing windows this year to help reduce the likelihood that this situation occurs. For STAAR assessments only, the district may request a medical exclusion (for the district participation rate) at the end of the testing window.

Teacher evaluations

For those school districts that incorporate STAAR results into teacher evaluations, TEA is allowing them to seek a waiver from including that component this school year (TEA also is allowing waivers from all teacher evaluation requirements if a district so chooses).

More about spring testing

In its Spring 2021 Assessment Guidance (1/14/21), TEA provided additional information about how state testing would be conducted in light of the pandemic. 

First, TEA is providing an assessment exception to the requirement that on-campus instruction must be offered for all grades served by the campus every day for every student whose parents want them to access on-campus instruction.

Specifically, TEA provides that remote instruction can be an option on certain testing days. For example, if a campus cannot assess all students for specific assessments, including STAAR, TELPAS online assessments, and certain college readiness assessments (SAT, PSAT, ACT, ACT Aspire, and TSIA), during the district-scheduled assessment days and comply with local health protocols, the district can submit a waiver request to require students who are not scheduled to take an assessment to learn remotely on that scheduled testing day. This does not apply to STAAR Alternate 2 or TELPAS Alternate, which have six- and seven-week testing windows, respectfully, and involve individualized administration protocols.

These waivers are limited to a maximum of five days per administration. All waivers will be conditionally approved upon receipt but may be subject to further review by TEA. In the event one of these testing days has already occurred, waivers can be submitted at this time and approvals can be granted retroactively.

Extended testing window for STAAR and STAAR Alternate 2

The extended online optional testing window for both STAAR 3-8 and EOC assessments is as follows:

  • two weeks for the December 2020 STAAR EOC assessments (Dec. 8–18),
  • five weeks for the April 2021 STAAR grades 3–8 and EOC assessments (April 6–May 7),
  • five weeks for the May 2021 STAAR EOC assessments (May 4–June 4),
  • five weeks for the May 2021 STAAR grades 3–8 assessments (May 11–June 11), and
  • two weeks for the June 2021 STAAR grades 3–8 and EOC assessments (June 22–July 2).

The STAAR Alternate 2 testing window has been extended to include:

  • a two-week preview window (March 15–26) and
  • a six-week test administration window (March 29–May 7).

Districts can schedule STAAR math, reading, science and social studies tests on any school day during the optional, extended, online testing window. However, due to test security issues, tests with writing components do not have the same flexibility, and although STAAR grade 4 writing, grade 7 writing, English I and English II are included in the five-week online testing window extension, they have been assigned designated days within each week of the extension.

A district that chooses the optional online testing window extension must ensure that sufficient time is provided between administrations for required remediation or accelerated instruction. (This includes re-testers for STAAR grades 5 and 8 math and reading and STAAR EOC assessments.)

TEA said it is not able to extend STAAR paper testing windows because of the time required to ship, process and score paper testing materials and maintain reporting dates. If a district cannot follow the current one-day paper administration for STAAR while following appropriate public health protocols, then the district will need to administer some of these assessments online during the extended testing window.

Districts should plan their test administrations based on the allowed testing dates provided in the TEA Testing Calendar. For students who do not test during the scheduled day, districts may offer additional testing days within the allowed testing window. Additional testing days are optional and at the discretion of the district.

Extended online testing window for TELPAS

The testing window for TELPAS online grades 2–12 reading has been extended by one week for a total of eight weeks (Feb. 22–April 9). The testing window for the remaining TELPAS tests is seven weeks (Feb. 22–April 2).

The testing window for TELPAS Alternate has been extended by one week for a total of seven weeks (Feb. 22–April 9).

TELPAS holistic assessments (K–1 and 2–12 writing) and TELPAS Alternate: TEA guidance says teachers can provide multiple opportunities throughout the assessment window for students to demonstrate their level of English language proficiency remotely as long as raters gather sufficient information to designate an accurate rating. If permitted, districts must determine locally if electronic tools (e.g., text, email, video conferencing software, etc.) will be allowed to complete the holistic rating process. Districts must ensure that the holistic rating process is valid and that FERPA regulations are maintained. TELPAS writing samples may be collected for students who are receiving remote instruction and should reflect authentic classroom instruction, and that includes remote or digital learning in the current environment.

TELPAS online basic training may be completed in a remote setting and should be completed independently. Completion of the online basic training is required for new raters and for raters who have not completed calibration activities within the last three years. This course is divided into modules so that it can be completed in more than one sitting, if necessary. Due to the state’s current health situation, the agency is allowing districts the option to conduct monitored calibration activities in a virtual or remote setting (e.g., Zoom, TEAMS meeting, Google Meet, etc.). Calibration must still be completed in one sitting and be monitored by a proctor.

A district, at its discretion, may require face-to-face monitored calibration activities. However, it must still adhere to appropriate public health protocols. Individuals are not authorized to serve as TELPAS raters until they complete the state-required training and calibration activities. Calibration proctors must be able to view all participants in a session on one screen as they complete their calibration activity. Participants should remain in the proctor’s view at all times. A calibration proctor may not have a session with breakout groups and should not need to scroll to see all the participants at one time. In addition, the chat or message feature should be disabled since raters are required to calibrate independently.