EL PASO, Texas - Thousands of students in the state of Texas continue testing for the STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) exam.
On Wednesday, testing will take place for the Reading exam for some grades.
Days prior to the start of the exams, the Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath posted a memo to the agency's website about some minor changes taking place in the classroom during testing.
"I've been listening to district feedback and want to do all I can to help make this a positive experience," said Morath in the statement.
The changes highlighted included how long it takes to complete the STAAR test, students with medical exemptions and classroom displays.
Morath explained that the STAAR assessments were shortened so the vast majority of students can complete the assessment within two hours in grades 3-5 and three hours in grades 6-8. That does not mean students have to finish in two to three hours, they are given four.
Districts are also asked to mark a student's answer document if they did not finish within the given time.
The TEA also encouraged districts to allow students to leave the testing environment after they complete the exam.
Another concern addressed is who the test is administered to and if there are other options for students with potential medical exemptions.
"In some cases, administrators feel required to deliver the STAAR Alternate 2 assessment even for students who likely should not take any form of assessment," Morath stated.
According to the TEA website, the STAAR Alternate 2 assessment was developed to meet the federal requirements mandated under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). It is a federal education law previously known as No Child Left Behind.
TEA designed the STAAR Alternate 2 to assess students in grades 3-8 and high school who have significant cognitive disabilities and are receiving special education services.
Morath explained how the issue is being handled:
"To address this, we have recently attempted to clarify the availability of assessment medical exemptions. For those students who are receiving extensive medical treatment due to a medical emergency or other serious issue, districts are encouraged to call the Student Assessment Division to discuss testing options and to relieve additional undue stress on the student."
Lastly, Morath addressed classroom displays during testing.
Many times, teachers are forced to cover up posters and displays which can make for "very sterile, stressful testing environments."
The TEA changed its rules to relax some of the requirements. Educators are asked to use their discretion when deciding what to cover up or remove.
"Materials that clearly answer questions should be covered. But if in your judgment they won't provide answers to possible questions, they certainly don't need to be covered," Morath stated.
While they are minor changes, Morath said "hopefully these changes are helpful to your students and staff."