TEA DELAYED 103 DAYS AFTER RECEIPT FROM ETS,
94 DAYS AFTER PUBLIC INFORMATION REQUEST FILED
TO RELEASE REPORT TO PUBLIC AFTER SCHOOL RATINGS ANNOUNCED
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Law requires 85% completion in 2 hours; One STAAR assessment only had 17% completed within limit; No single paper-based assessment in March met time limits
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AUSTIN — On Thursday, August 17, 2016, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) public information office released a memorandum from Education Testing Service (ETS) dated May 6, 2016 titled A Report on Testing Time Collected During March 2016 Test Administration. The report’s introduction states,
“[As] observed in the data, only a small percentage (about 17% for Grade 5 Reading for example) completed the test in 2 hours for the lower grades. … These percentages do not support the [HB-743] requirement (i.e., 85% of students completing the test in 2 hours) for the lower grades.”
The ETS report, recognizing that the STAAR assessments for grades 3, 4 and 5 were grossly over the legal limits, provided the TEA with analysis and initial recommendations on how to bring the STAAR into compliance. That analysis includes warnings that shortening some of the assessments while maintaining the same content blueprint might lead to questionable reliability. The report goes on to provide comparisons to other state tests that allow significantly less time per question on comparable standardized tests.
The timing of the May 6 report’s release on August 17 leads to new questions for the TEA including why the report wasn’t released earlier. Reports about test time data have been the subject of numerous public information requests (PIR) and at the heart of the evidence requests by plaintiffs in Lewis et al. v. Morath, a lawsuit brought by parents from the Houston, Dallas, Austin, Beaumont and now Waco areas seeking declaratory judgment. A full narrative of public information requests to, and related responses from, the TEA was published yesterday on the website stopstaar.com which outlines at least four denials by TEA employees on grounds that the requested information either didn’t exist or wasn’t allowed to be released. Finally, 94 days after the second PIR was filed and only a few hours after the TEA first appeared in court to fight parents’ standing to sue, a fifth response was sent in which the ETS memorandum was disclosed. The timing of this release was convenient for the TEA in two ways: (1) it came after the highly-anticipated and comprehensively press-covered release of the statewide district and school accountability ratings and (2) when the judge presiding at the court hearing asked how long the STAAR tests took students this year, the lawyer for the TEA was able to respond, “We don’t have that data.”
Representatives Dan Huberty and Jason Isaac were primary sponsors of common sense reforms to the state’s standardized testing regime during the last legislative session. Passed by an overwhelming majority in the Texas House of Representatives (143 to 1) and signed into law on an emergency basis by Governor Greg Abbott on June 19, 2015, the requirements went into immediate effect.
Statements made by the TEA and its two different commissioners since the bill was passed have ranged from (1) the TEA will not have time to comply, (2) the TEA is not required to comply with regard to the current STAAR administration, (3) that the TEA attempted to comply, and (4) that the TEA will comply in the future.
One of the two major requirements in the law is that assessments mandated by the Education Code have to be kept to a maximum time limit. For grades 3 - 5, the assessment must be short enough that 85% of students can finish in 2 hours, and for grades 6 - 8, they must be short enough that 85% of students finish in 3 hours. This provision provides assurance that assessments that had become longer and longer over the years would be limited to a reasonable time frame and done so with consideration for students’ respective ages and developmental stages.
The Committee to Stop STAAR was formed out of a grassroots fundraising campaign supporting legal action against the TEA. Donors to the campaign are a diverse group of parents, grandparents, teachers and concerned citizens from around the state who demand action after the TEA ignored the common sense reforms that many felt they had won during last year’s legislative session. Fundraising began on March 30, 2016—the same week as the first administration of this year’s STAAR—with a GoFundMe campaign (gofundme.com/StopSTAAR) that has since raised over $23,000 from more than 340 donors. The Committee is seeking additional support to keep the suit going through hearings and a court decision.