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.