Responding to pressure from lawmakers, parents and school leaders statewide, Education Commissioner Robert Scott announced today that the Texas Education Agency will defer a rule requiring that new student assessments count for 15 percent of students' final grades.
For the 2011-12 year, it will be left up to school districts whether they count the exams toward final grades or not.
In a statement, Scott said that he decided to delay the rule after receiving statutory clarification from state leaders on the agency's authority to postpone the policy. "I remain committed to public school accountability," he wrote. "The new assessment system will be better for students and educators and will better ensure Texas students are ready for postsecondary success."
Earlier this week, a group of state senators, led by education committee chairwoman Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, sent a letter to Scott saying that they supported a delay of the rule. The House public education chief, Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, delivered a similar letter, widely signed by his colleagues, to the agency today. During the legislative session, Eissler carried a bill that would have left it up to school districts whether to factor the new tests into students' grades. After passing the House by a large margin, the measure failed when Shapiro opposed it in the Senate.
As districts cope with a more than $4 billion reduction in state funding, there has been widespread anxiety about the rollout of the rigorous STAAR exams among parents, teachers and school administrators. Until now, the TEA has said that it does not have legal authority to modify policies surrounding the 15-percent requirement, which many school districts are still figuring out how to apply.
Two weeks ago, Scott caused a statewide stir when he told 4,000 school administrators that standardized testing in Texas has become a "perversion of its original intent." Scott said he believed the new system would ultimately be an improvement over the current one, but he expressed concerns about how the transition was playing out in classrooms.