Trent Ashby

TRENT ASHBY

State Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) released a letter he wrote to Gov. Greg Abbott about the decision to require the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness during the 2020-21 year despite the pressures placed by a world in a pandemic.

“As a member of the House Committee on Public Education during the 86th Legislative Session, I was fortunate to participate in the crafting of historic legislation that promotes and prioritizes greater equity in public schools to achieve greater academic success,” Ashby wrote. “Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to undermine the progress we’ve made through its inherently disproportionate effect on students and teachers.”

By requiring multiple high-stakes standardized tests, the state would be taking for granted students with limited access to resources needed to properly prepare and unfairly determining accountability based on a school year in which there is no way to ensure consistent instruction statewide, Ashby wrote.

He praised Abbott for his decision to waive the STAAR Test requirements for the 2019-20 and asked him to consider waiving the requirements for the 2020-21 school year in present conditions.

“Your thoughtful decision to alleviate the burden of standardized tests at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates not only your commitment to the health and well-being of our educational community, but also reflects a compassionate understanding of the challenges posed by high-stakes testing — especially in this time of uncertainty,” he wrote. “As such, given the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Texas, I write you today to ask that you employ the same wisdom and compassion displayed in March of 2020 to request a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education that would exempt Texas from standardized testing requirements for the 2020-2021 school year.”

Requesting a waiver to drop STAAR requirements for the 2020-21 school year would continue Texas’ history of leadership through thoughtful policy and bold action, Ashby wrote.

“Removing this burden allows our students and teachers to focus on instruction, growth and development, which will ultimately lead to a better and more productive learning environment,” Ashby wrote. “Given the amount of time our students have been out of the classroom, the importance of quality instruction cannot be understated.”

Many other individuals and organizations have also expressed concern for the STAAR Test and a number of other issues in the 2020-21 school year. The Association of Texas Professional Educators released a statement calling for action on three concerns.

“ATPE is made up of the voices of 100,000 educators statewide, and these educators have together chosen to make their voices heard to ensure the safety of their community in the midst of the global pandemic,” said Shannon Holmes, ATPE executive director. “All along, ATPE has said that Texas students, parents and educators deserve to be safe and have a firm understanding of the steps being taken to provide a safe learning environment, and this vote by our members strongly reaffirms our stance.”

They called for the state and/or federal government to require school districts to include educators and parents in the plans for the safe re-entry of students and district employees, allocate emergency funds for substitutes in case of mandatory quarantine requirements for district personnel, and waive requirements for school districts to administer the 2020-21 STAAR and Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System tests.

“ATPE does not make these requests lightly,” Holmes said. “Our members tell us repeatedly how much they miss their students and being in the classroom, but it is simply not safe at present given the current public health scenario, particularly in urban areas. The State of Texas must act to ensure the safety of all as we resume the vital education of Texas children.”

Grace Juarez's email address is grace.juarez@lufkindailynews.com.