Reviewing Your Child’s STAAR Assessment – A Step by Step Guide

On June 27, 2014, Kyle and Jennifer Massey did something that the Texas Education Agency and local school districts had spent years denying was possible: they reviewed the STAAR assessment booklet and answer sheet that was administered to their child.  Previous requests by parents had been met with denials that ranged from “that’s not possible” to “that’s illegal.”  However, the Texas Education Code is very clear on this issue: “a parent is entitled to access to a copy of each state assessment instrument administered under Section 39.023 to the parent’s child.” (Sec. 26.005).  With four volunteers, the law firm of Arnold & Placek set out to see what would happen when parents decided to stop taking no for an answer and demand the legal rights the Texas legislature granted to them.  The answer came today: parents do have a right to review their child’s test booklet and answer sheet.  They are not confined to the unhelpful summary data on the STAAR scoring reports.  This right of access is the first step in ending the secrecy and almost mystical air that surrounds the STAAR tests.  Teachers are threatened with criminal charges or loss of their teaching certifications if they dare to even ask their students what problems were difficult for them.  But parents still have a voice.  We are not required to sit back and accept that it is not possible to know the content of the assessment that our state legislators have dictated will control our children’s futures.  The Texas Parents’ Educational Rights Network encourages all Texas parents to request and review the STAAR assessments administered to their children.  This guide will tell you how to do it.

esc mapFirst, understand that you will not be mailed a copy of the materials.  TEA considers these documents to be confidential.  Your inspection will take place in the presence of a TEA employee either in Austin or in one of the 20 Educational Service Centers spread around the state.  Second, the statute does not permit you to photograph or copy the materials.  You are granted a right of access to the assessment instrument.  TEA will strictly enforce this restriction and is likely within their statutory rights to do so.  Third, although TEA will instruct you to make a Public Information Act request, this is improper.  Your rights do not derive from any right of or obligation to the general public.  You have a specific statutory right as the parent of your child to access their assessment.  Fourth, at the present time, the TEA is prohibiting parents from making any notes during their inspection.  Although we believe this restriction is not statutorily authorized, until such time as that matter is resolved with the TEA, your access will be limited to the rules imposed by the TEA.

The request for access to your child’s STAAR assessment involves three basic steps:

1.  Making a written request;

2.  Submitting a FERPA release; and

3.  Establishing your right of access.

Once these steps are completed, the Texas Education Agency will acknowledge your right of access and ask you to contact the Student Assessment Division to schedule an appointment.

Step 1 – Making a Written Request

Use this form to request access to your child’s STAAR assessments:  STAAR Assessment Access Request Letter

There will be certain attachments to the letter which we will discuss in Steps 2 and 3.  Please note, you should never submit this request using the TEA’s online  Public Information Request form.

Step 2 – Completing a FERPA Release

Although you are not making a FERPA request, the TEA has indicated that the FERPA release form is required as a part of the access request.  Download the FERPA Release Form here.

We have pre-filled certain parts of this form, but you still must customize it for your request, including the dates of the assessments requested and the campus where the assessments were administered.  In the initial release authorization, please complete the release designation as shown below:

ferpa assist

Step 3 – Establishing the Right of Access

In order to have a right of access, you must be the parent or legal guardian of the child in question.  The TEA requires that you submit certain identifying documentation to establish a right of access.  The following documents should be submitted:

1.  A current drivers license or other government issued ID;

2. The child’s birth certificate or court order establishing guardianship; and

3. Any name change documents necessary to establish that you are the parent listed on the birth certificate.  This is very important in the case of remarriage.

Step 4 – Submitting the Request

Once you have these documents, assemble them behind the request letter for mailing or fax, or scan them all into an electronic file for e-mail request.

TEA has very specific delivery requirements for these STAAR access requests.  Although you are not seeking access under the Public Information Act, the TEA has no request tracking process outside of the Open Records process.  For that reason, requests should be submitted by one or more of the following methods:

1.      E-mail: If a copy is sent via confidential e-mail, a user name must be established through TEA’s encrypted e-mail service. Review the TEA encrypted e-mail training at http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/TEA_Encrypted_Email_Instructions.pdf before sending the e-mail message to PIR@tea.state.tx.us asking for a secure site to be set up for transmittal. Scan the request letter, photo identification and birth certificate or court document and create an electronic file that can be attached to the e-mail.

2.      Mail: If a copy is sent via certified U.S. Postal Service, send it to the address below.

Texas Education Agency
Public Information Coordination Office
5th Floor Room 128
1701 North Congress Ave.
Austin, Texas  78701

Please note that you should still address the letter in the manner indicated on the form of the access letter.

3.      Fax: Fax to the number listed below.

Texas Education Agency
Public Information Coordination Office
512-463-9838 (fax)

If a copy is sent via fax, call (512) 463-9734 to notify a staff member of the delivery.

Potential Roadblocks

You should not receive any additional requests for information or delays in the access process.  The only permissible request would be if the TEA is uncertain about your documents establishing your parent or guardian relationship.  If you receive any other notices or requests, consult legal counsel immediately!  In addition, please report these delays to us by e-mail.

The Appointment

Once your right of access is established, you will receive a notice advising you to contact the TEA to schedule your appointment.  Current TEA restrictions prohibit copying, photographing and even note taking during the assessment review.  The right is individual to the parent and you may not bring representatives into the appointment room with you.  The TEA will also ask you to sign an oath of test security.

See sample oath

This notice appears to be unsworn and probably not enforceable as an oath.  It also misstates the statute on test disclosure.  We believe both that the adoption of this form is not authorized by statute or TEA rule and that it is improper for the TEA to condition access on the signing of this agreement, but you will likely be denied access unless you sign.  If you are interested in testing this requirement, contact Arnold & Placek to see if they are willing to assist you.

This process is relatively straightforward and so far we have not had any reports of unreasonable delays or denials by the TEA.  This guide is intended to permit parents to successfully make their own requests.  If you would like to retain legal representation to make your request, you can contact Arnold & Placek.

19 Comments

  1. Gary Maroulis

    Thank you so much for this info. We are going to do this. One question; Once you are ready to e-mail the documents and have requested the secure site be set up for transmittal do you also send the “packet” to pir@tea.state.tx.us , if not what is the correct e-mail address? Thanks again!

  2. Terri Magnotti

    Is it okay to have the request be from both parents if both parents want to view the test booklet? Or would that potentially complicate the request? Thanks for all your work!

    1. admin

      It is absolutely fine to make the request from both parents. Just provide the appropriate documentation for both parents with the request.

  3. Amy Cline

    Mission Accomplished thanks to your clear instructions. I viewed my daughter’s exam booklet and answer sheets this week. Many thanks! I used fax to submit my request. Process took about a month total from application to viewing. I strongly encourage all parents to do this!

  4. Rebecca Barbier

    My son is in dual language so they tested him in Spanish. I do not speak Spanish. Is there a way to get a translator to review the test with me?

    1. admin

      I have not encountered that situation yet. I would suggest you request that accommodation and if denied, contact an attorney. I do believe that access without understanding is meaningless.

    1. admin

      Yes, it is too early. You should wait until the test is administered and then immediately start the process of requesting to review it.

  5. Amy

    For this years STAAR tests, you need to request before May 22nd. I was told today that there is a short window before the actual test booklets are destroyed. TEA will pull the booklets if a request is made after all test have been scored (which is May 22, 2015).

  6. Lisa

    I am going to be requesting to view my daughter’s third grade math/reading STAAR test booklets, do you think there will be a problem since I am also a third grade math teacher?

  7. Shelly

    I have sole legal custody of my grandson. I have a 40 page court document. Do I need to send all 40 pages, as some of it deals with visitation and child support.

  8. Darlene Hicks

    Is it possible for my daughter (Junior) to view her test with me if she and I have proper documentation and identification? Has this ever been done?

  9. Kelly

    Has anyone made the request for a STAAR online test? That is what my son took in 5th this year. I plan to start my request to view this week.

Leave A Comment?