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Devers mayor ‘bans’ STAAR test within city limits

March 13, 2019

The mayor of Devers, Texas, issued a proclamation Tuesday “banning” the state’s STAAR exams within city limits.

Steven Horelica, who also is a fifth grade teacher and bus driver in Devers ISD, said the statement does not have legal teeth and was made symbolically to give voice to growing opposition against the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR tests.

“Everything is judged by one single event. Kids are labeled by what they do on one day of the year,” Horelica said. “Students are judged by that number, teachers are judged by that number instead of, let’s look at the big picture lets see how much the child has grown this year, let’s look at them and see how they can get better.”

He said the mayor of Sour Lake, near Beaumont, will put forward a similar proclamation in the next month.

The idea to symbolically ban the standardized test within Devers — population: 447 in 2010 — began with a Jan. 29 Facebook post in which Horelica half-jokingly presented a draft resolution. At the time, he said it was not serious, but more and more people began to ask him to actually do it.

Texas Education Agency officials declined to comment on the proclamation, but federal laws require standardized testing and other accountability measures in order for districts and state departments of education to receive federal funding. The Texas Education Code also states that school district’s accreditation and funding are tied to test participation and performance, and students who fail the exams can be held back.

In 2017-2018, about 35,000 Texas students were counted as “not tested” in the state’s accountability ratings. Since 2012, only about 1 percent of all eligible students have not taken the STAAR test each year, although the state does not separate out that data to show who missed the test intentionally and how many students missed it due to medical issues or emergencies.

Horelica said since news broke that he was doing it for real, messages of support have flowed into his inbox from across Texas and the country from people sick of year-round test preparation and the stakes tied to the once-a-year exams.

“It’s a bad thing for education,” Horelica said. “I think we should all be working to put an end to it no matter who we are.”

shelby.webb@chron.com

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