We’ve received a report of a demonstrably false e-mail being sent to parents at a Conroe ISD junior high school., McCullough Junior High. The full email is below, but the closing paragraph of the e-mail read as follows:
“Also, as a general reminder to ensure there is no confusion or surprise, Texas students in eighth grade must pass both the STAAR reading and math exams. Note, eighth graders have three attempts to take each test. The first opportunities occur on 3/28 and 3/29. Texas eighth grade students who do not pass the reading and/or exams on the first attempt are required by state law to be pulled out of their regular classes and remediated during the school day for the two weeks leading up to the second administration on May 8 and May 9. Texas students who do not pass after the second attempt are required by state law to attend summer school STAAR Academy and take the test for the third time on June 20 and June 21. As you plan your summer schedule, please note this information in advance.”
So let’s break down the falsehoods this school sees fit to share with parents. We’ll ignore the condescending, if not mocking tone of the opening “to ensure there is no confusion or surprise.”
- Texas students in eighth grade must pass both the STAAR reading and math exams. This is false because the Texas Education Code provides that students who do not pass the STAAR math or reading in 5th or 8th grade can be promoted by a Grade Placement Committee. If we look to 2015 (the last time STAAR based retention was on the table), Conroe had a 6% 8th grade English failure rate, but only a 0.6% retention rate. Clearly, 90% of the students who failed STAAR were not retained. They were promoted via GPC just as the statute envisions. Yet, the junior high does not see fit to tell parents that. They only spread the false narrative that 8th grade is a “must pass” year.
- Texas eighth grade students who do not pass the reading and/or exams on the first attempt are required by state law to be pulled out of their regular classes and remediated during the school day for the two weeks leading up to the second administration. Again, this is absolutely false. The state requires “accelerated instruction”. It does not specify the time, extent, or method of that instruction. It does not require schools to pull kids out of regular classes. It does not require the remediation be during the school day. It does not require it to last two weeks. These are all local decisions. Apart from being false, this e-mail is a cowardly “pass the buck” approach for schools unwilling to take responsibility for their own local decisions. When a parent complains about their kid being pulled out of class, the school will look them in the face and lie and say “the state requires us to do this.”
- Texas students who do not pass after the second attempt are required by state law to attend summer school STAAR Academy and take the test for the third time on June 20 and June 21. The school worked really hard on this sentence to pack two entirely separate lies into one long sentence. First, there is absolutely no state law or rule that requires students who have not passed STAAR after two attempts to attend summer school. Moreover, this isn’t even entirely a local decision. The law, again, requires “accelerated instruction” without requiring any particular duration, content, form, method or location. But that is not a decision that can be made now. The accelerated instruction for each individual student is determined by the Grade Placement Committee, of which the parent is a member. Any school telling you what the decision of that committee will be before it even meets is essentially saying they have no intention of following the specific requirements of Texas law. If the decision is not made by the GPC, it is not valid and can be ignored. Second, state law does not require any student to take the third administration of STAAR. In fact, it explicitly permits a parent to waive the third administration. It is the one circumstance most schools will acknowledge an opt out right. But apparently not in Conroe – they choose to lie, deceive and bully.
Let me try giving this e-mail a re-write for the hapless administration of this poor school.
“Parent partners in education, Texas students in eighth grade will soon take the STAAR reading and math exams. The first administration will occur on 3/28 and 3/29. We hope they will do well. They’ve been working hard. But let’s keep everything in perspective. We know a one time assessment is not a fair picture of your child’s ability. This is why Texas law lets schools promote kids who have not passed STAAR, if they have otherwise shown they are capable of success at the next grade level. If your eighth grade student does not pass the reading and/or math exams on the first attempt, we are required by state law to give them accelerated instruction. We’ll make sure it isn’t disruptive to their classroom learning and communicate the plan to you in advance. Let us know if you have any concerns about our proposed remediation and we’ll work with you. After the second administration on May 8 and May 9, if your student has not passed both Math and Reading STAAR, we will have a GPC meeting to discuss the promotion of your child and any remediation they need to complete before the fall. We’ll also explain how you can choose to waive the third administration of STAAR. As you plan your summer schedule, know that we put your child and your family first. Have a great spring break, relax, and let’s come back and finish the year strong!”
Here is the actual e-mail: