Schools: STOP THE LIES

I’ve had it. I am tired of parents reporting threats and intimidation tactics by schools that are nothing but lies. At first I tried to give the teachers and administrators the benefit of the doubt and think they must just be misinformed. But the reports are coming so hot and so heavy that I am left with only one conclusion: schools, teachers and administrators will say and do anything to try to intimidate you into making sure your child takes the STAAR. They will lie; they will bully; they will threaten. It needs to stop. This is not an adversarial system. Education is supposed to be a partnership between parents and educators for the benefit of the children. In the business world, when partners lie to each other they get sued. Too bad the schools have no such deterrent.

Let’s count the lies:

1. Students have to pass Math STAAR for promotion this year. False, the TEA has removed it from SSI requirements. (Link)

Update for 2016: Math STAAR is part of SSI this school year.  Even so, the Education Code provides a path for promotion for 5th and 8th graders who do not pass STAAR in Math or Reading (or both).

2. If you child doesn’t take STAAR in 3rd/4th/6th/7th grade, they can’t go to the next grade. Almost always false. Check your school district’s policy online for Policy EIE (Local). Look for the section entitled Grade Advancement Testing. Most policies only say passage of the state assessment is required for Grades 5 and 8. Houston ISD is a notable exception. But I have not found any other districts that have enacted such a policy. No, they cannot retain your child for opting out of STAAR in 3rd, 4th, 6th or 7th Grade. To do this Google the name of your ISD and “board policy online”. From there, click on “Section E: Instruction” and locate policy EIE (Local). The typical section reads something like this: “Grade Advancement Testing: Except when a student will be assessed in reading or mathematics above his or her enrolled grade level, students in grades 5 and 8 must meet the passing standard on the applicable state-mandated assessments in reading and mathematics to be promoted to the next grade level, in addition to the District’s local standards for mastery and promotion.” By the way, the “in addition to” language at the end demonstrates that STAAR is not a part of the District’s local standards for mastery and promotion that apply to all other grades.

Update for 2016: Houston ISD has apparently suspended their promotion policy for non-SSI grades.  To my knowledge H-E-B ISD is continuing their policy on non-SSI year passage.  I have not found any other districts requiring STAAR passage in non-SSI years.

3. Your 5th/8th Grader Can’t Be Promoted Without Taking STAAR. False. The Education Code provides that students who have not met the standards for passage of STAAR in 5th or 8th grade are reviewed by a Grade Placement Committee for promotion. .Tex. Educ. Code sec. 28.0211 (e).

4. Our District WON’T Promote you if you don’t at least try STAAR. Either False or an overt statement of their intention to break the law. There is nothing in the Education Code, or any school policy we have seen, which permits a district to take into account the refusal to take STAAR as a factor in promotion or retention. The Education Code dictates the factors to be considered. Refusal to participate in STAAR is not one of them. When a district says this, they need a lawyer letter sent to them. Tex. Educ. Code 28.021(c).

5. If you don’t take STAAR, you have to go to Summer School. False. There is nothing in the Education Code that requires STAAR failures or refusers to go to summer school. The TEA’s SSI manual is very clear that there is no specific amount or type of Accelerated Instruction required for kids who have not passed STAAR. Specifically, the quote from p. 33 of the manual states, “Neither the law nor the rules specify the amount of time to be provided for the accelerated instruction. To support the SSI grade-advancement requirements, the law and the commissioner’s rules provide districts and charter schools with flexibility to determine on an individual student basis the appropriate form, content, and timing of the accelerated instruction. ” It is also a decision for the GPC, which you are a member of!  For 5th and 8th grade students, summer school cannot be required by district “policy”, notes from the principal or any other method other than GPC.

6. If you don’t take STAAR, you have to lose an elective next year. False. For the same reason above.

7. – Updated: Your high school student cannot go to the next grade unless they pass STAAR. Completely false. Again check Board Policy EIE (Local). The standard language says “Grade-level advancement for students in grades 9–12 shall be earned by course credits.” Credit comes from grades. STAAR is a graduation requirement only, although alternate assessments are available. Please check your local board policy to confirm.

8 – Updated:  If you opt out in grades 3-8, your child can’t graduate high school.  Completely false and deliberate lie.  There is absolutely no connection between performance or participation in pre-secondary STAAR assessments and high school graduation.  The high school requirements (which do not even require passage of all STAAR EOC assessments) are independent of the requirements for Grades 3-8.  No part of high school graduation requirements look at participation in STAAR for grades 3-8.  This is so well known, that if a school tells you this, they can only be trying to scare and intimidate you.

9 –  Updated: If you opt out you cannot be promoted to 6th/9th grade.  You can only be placed in the grade. False.  The Grade Placement Committee, by law, can do only one of two things: promote or retain.  Placement is not a “thing” under the education code, except in one rare instance that has nothing to do with STAAR and does not involve a GPC.  This is just a lie designed to make the parent feel their child will be labeled as something inferior.  It is not true.

10 – If you are at school and refuse STAAR, you get a ZERO! False.  Nobody gets a zero.  Nobody in the history of all STAAR has ever gotten a zero.  Students who refuse assessment receive the minimum scaled score.  Now let’s ask two questions. First, what does that matter?  A refused assessment does not yield valid educational data whether they score is a 0 or a 1,000,000.  It is meaningless.  Second, if nobody gets a zero, why do schools say that?  Because getting a zero sounds scary to parents in a way that getting the minimum scaled score doesn’t  Schools will lie to you to scare you in order to get you to take the assessment.  That’s really pathetic.  Don’t fall victim to these scare tactics.

I am sure there are more and as I see them, I will add them in. Here is my advice for parents. When your district makes a threat like any of the above, tell them you want to see it in writing. You will be amazed how many of these “threats” will disappear when you ask them to sign their name to it. That is because they know they are lying.

And one other thing, if you give in to these lies, they will continue. If you allow yourself to be bullied, you are setting yourself and future parents up for more of the same treatment. You are an adult. They can’t take your lunch money from you unless you let them. Stand up to the lies.

17 Comments

  1. Clint Carmichael

    Can you give me any information on opting my daughter out in high school? She goes to Clear Springs HS in the CCISD district. She is in 9th grade. Thank you very much! We live in Friendswood, Texas.

  2. Chris

    We are out in Pflugerville, Tx and I read the article but it doesn’t say “in addition” : In grades 2–5, promotion shall be based on the following:
    1. Grade-level proficiency in reading (determined by teacher observations
    and other data including state assessments) and
    mathematics (determined by teacher observations, assessments,
    and other data);
    2. A 70 percent yearly average in language arts;
    3. A 70 percent yearly average in mathematics;
    4. A 70 percent combined yearly average in language arts,
    mathematics, social studies, and science;
    5. Compliance with the attendance policy.

    To me this sounds like a mandate that they must complete the STARR test.

    Thanks for all the information, I am so thankful for resources like this.

    1. admin

      Chris –

      This is why you must read local policies. Pflugerville’s policy is not typical of most policies. However, if you look at the section of the policy entitled Grade Advancement Testing, it does, in fact, say in addition. Given the rule that specific trumps general, I disagree that Pflugerville’s policy mandates retention for students who don’t take STAAR.

      Pflugerville is definitely a worse environment than most!

      1. Jennifer Sloan

        Does your school do MAP testing? If so, that is an assessment for math and reading and the results give a grade level by month number that shows how your child is currently performing. If they have that data, they don’t need STAAR assessment results. I don’t know if it will help, but it’s certainly a decent argument. Your district policy does not say taking the STAAR is required, it just says that the results could be considered for promotion.

    2. Erika

      Hi Chris. We are new to PFISD. Do you have an update on what happened? What grade was your child in?

      Thank you !

  3. Carol Davis

    My 5th grader and 8th grader, after I opted them out of STAAR assessment and withdrew them to home-school on June 2, 2015 with all passing grades, were retained in Killeen Independent School District. The district coded them upon their withdrawal on June 2, 2015 as R for retained. The last day of school was June 4, 2015. My children’s withdrawal form for June 2, 2015 is useless in Killeen ISD and no district campus principal will honor it, only what is in their local database for my two sons, which is R for retained.

    When I went to try to enroll my sons in their next grade level, 6th and 9th grade for the 2015-2016 school year, the principal and their staff would not allow them to be enrolled them informing me that they were retained. The district expects me to overrule myself in the decision to opt my children out of STAAR. If I go, then I do just that: overrule myself.
    For parents who chose not to Opt their children out of STAAR, GPC is a necessity. However, how do you make a plan or even have a GPC for students who neither attempted the STAAR assessment but were successful in all of their core classes? I do not plan to allow them to take the STAAR going forward either. However, Killeen ISD has demonstrated that they will keep my children as professional 5th and 8th graders in their school district if I assert my parental rights in the education of my children. Their actions go against their own policy regarding retention, EIE (local). I wonder if Congress know this is what school districts would do to children under the NCLB act: leave them behind with all passing grades and block them in their school district with all passing grades from proceeding to the next highest grade level after being home-schooled?
    In a request for services, which Killeen ISD continues to deny to my children under IDEA, their notice of refusal indicated that my son was “retained for non-compliance of state testing”. Catch word, “testing”. STAAR is an assessment, but they refuse to call it an assessment because they want parents to think they are breaking the law under Section 26.010 “avoid a test”.
    Since when is non-compliance for Opting out of the state assessment penalized by retention of students who perform satisfactorily in all of their grade level core classes. I have made numerous request for Killeen ISD Superintendent and campus administers to correct the R for retained to an W for withdrawn so that my children can move forward to their next highest grade level: 6th and 8th grade. Their response from the administrators ignores my request and goes back to issues of the STAAR assessment. Killeen ISD Superintendent remains silent. Also, my 8th grader was coded as a 98 which is described as a “drop out” in PEIMS when I notified the district in writing that my son was being withdrawn to home-school. The campus principal refused to change it, neither would her supervisor change it, and neither would the Superintendent change it who were all inform of this false entry in my child’s educational record. This is the consequences for parents who actually believe under TEC 26.001 PURPOSE, that Parents are partners in the education of their children.

  4. Brenda clay

    Star testing began a today for him at lynn Lucas middle school in Willis Texas. Do I need any type papers stating that we are opting out he 80 in 7th grade

  5. crystal sepeda

    Except when a student will be assessed in reading or mathematics
    above his or her enrolled grade level, students in grades 5 and 8
    must meet the passing standard on the applicable state-mandated
    assessments in reading and mathematics to be promoted to the
    next grade level, in addition to the District’s local standards for
    mastery and promotion.

  6. R. Willis

    If am 8th grade student, who goes to a charter school does not pass Staar, will he be retained?

    1. admin

      Parents who choose charter schools give up a number of rights. We cannot give any advice about charter schools because they all operate differently.

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