TEA sued by parents over STAAR test time

(KXAN FIle Photo)
(KXAN FIle Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Four Texas parents filed suit against Michael Morath, the Texas Education Commissioner, and have asked a Travis County judge for an injunction on the STAAR test which millions of Texas students just took. It’s the test your child needs to pass to move on to the next grade or graduate. The parents say the test takes too long and TEA violated a law just passed this last year at the state capitol.

Round Rock attorney Scott Placek filed the suit in Travis County District Court on behalf of the Committee to Stop STAAR which includes four parents from Wimberley, Dallas, Houston and Beaumont. The suit claims the Texas Education Agency did not follow the new law passed by the 2015 legislature, HB 743. According to HB 743, 85 percent of students in the 3rd through 8th grade have to take a end of year achievement (STAAR) exam in two hours or less.

As a father of three, Round Rock lawyer Scott Placek remembers the stress of end of year tests.

“After a couple of hours they’re ready to move on to something else and that’s the way their brains work. They’d probably rather be learning instead of bubbling in ovals,” said Placek. His latest lawsuit could impact tens of thousands of families.

“TEA is not above the law. They must follow the dictates of the Texas legislature,” said Placek.

Monday, in front of TEA’s office, he claimed TEA violated a new law requiring the agency to shorten the tests: 85 percent of third through fifth graders should be able to complete the test in two hours, sixth through eight graders, in under in three hours.

Four parents in the case say those changes weren’t made, the tests are illegal and the results should not count.

HB 743 passed the 2015 session with only a handful of lawmakers voting against it.

“With respects to the penalties among students and districts, these should not be used for those purposes,” said Placek.

A TEA spokesperson wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit because they had not officially been served. They did send information on changes they made this year. They shortened the test for grades 4 and 7 but are still collecting data for the other grades to make the change next year.

This lawsuits asks a judge to decide if those changes should have already been made.

Monday’s lawsuit is the latest controversy linked to the STAAR tests. Earlier this year, a computer glitch affected thousands of students taking the test. Thousands of students had answers on their STAAR writing tests disappear because of the glitch. Various computer problems with the test affected more than 14,000 students.

The Texas Education Agency tossed out the scores for the affected students. Those results will not be used in school accountability ratings either.

State lawmakers also created a way for students to graduate without passing the STAAR. The law lets school districts create committees which decide whether a student who does not pass the exam can get his or her diploma. The law affects around 28,000 high school seniors.

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