UPDATE: After publication, Commissioner Morath announced that online-only students will be able to opt out of the exam.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is asking the agency that oversees public education to let students skip state-mandated testing this year, citing concerns about the coronavirus.

On February 8, State Rep. Diego Bernal (D–San Antonio) penned a letter to Commissioner Mike Morath at the Texas Education Agency, asking that students be allowed to opt out of taking the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test for the 2020-2021 school year. 

Bernal showed bipartisan support with 40 other representatives signing the letter, including State Reps. Joe Moody (D–El Paso), Terry Meza (D–Irving), Morgan Meyer (R–Dallas), and Stan Lambert (R–Abilene).

Bernal cited the TEA’s own data that shows since the pandemic began last March, 46 percent of students—nearly 2.5 million—are still attending by remote online instruction. 

“Through the waiver of the Student Success Initiative for fifth and eighth graders and the pause of the A-F Accountability System, the Agency has sought to balance the impacts of COVID-19 induced learning loss with the health and safety of students and educators,” he said. 

In the letter, Bernal used data from the Department of State Health Services that indicates 104,365 students and 58,358 educators who are attending in-person school have tested positive, and the number continues to rise. 

Bernal also said students returning to school for STAAR testing will increase the chances of the virus spreading. Thus, he and the other lawmakers have asked Morath to allow students and their families the opportunity to opt out of state testing.  

Texans can weigh in on parents’ rights to decide if their children take the STAAR by contacting their state representative or TEA. 

Tera Collum

Tera Collum has 13 years experience as a government and economics teacher in Texas public schools. She recently was the director of The Travis Institute of Educational Policy and Teachers for Texas.