If you are asking about Opting Out, as a parent you have already reached certain conclusions. Maybe you believe the STAAR has had a negative effect on curriculum and you can’t support it. Maybe you find it developmentally inappropriate. Maybe you have seen the physical and emotional toll it takes on kids and don’t want to subject your child to that. Maybe you just don’t like outsourcing the assessment of Texas school kids to a foreign corporation. Whatever the reason, if you are asking about Opting Out, you’ve either reached those conclusions, or you are concerned enough about some issue to want to take action. So what are you waiting for?
If you are waiting on permission from your school before deciding to Opt Out of the STAAR test, let me save you some time. You won’t get it. The TEA has given districts their marching orders. They are to tell all parents that it is not permitted, ever, under any circumstances. Nevermind the hundreds or thousands of parents who opted out last year. Never mind all the voices who post on this forum and will tell you they Opted Out with no consequences. If you want your school’s permission, you don’t really want to Opt Out. What you want is to be excused. You want the school to do your job for you. They are usually all too happy to parent your child for you. That is, as long as it fits their rules. Since Opting Out doesn’t fit their rules, they won’t handle that part of it for you. You have to do the hard work.
2016 Update: At least in Houston ISD, there is now a formal opt out process. That alone should tell you that it is permitted and the decision to actively oppose you is a local decision.
What’s the hard work? The hard work is being a parent. The hard work is giving the school more respect than they give you and letting them know your decision. The hard work is listening to them lie and say that parents can’t opt their child out. The hard work is politely telling them that you weren’t asking their permission but have already decided. The hard work is letting them know that you understand the state ties their hands – that you don’t hold that against them and that you are sure they don’t hold your decision against you. The hard work is figuring out whether to refuse by staying home or by telling your child just not to fill out the test forms. The hard work being an advocate for your child if the school is upset by your decision.
The hard work is informing yourself and not taking any threats at face value. If they tell you your child will be retained, ask them why their retention rates don’t match their STAAR failure rates. Answer: because 90%+ of kids don’t take or don’t pass STAAR are still promoted. If they tell you that your child has to be tested on a makeup day, tell them you know it’s a district option and that you want your child in class even if it means they “grade” the refused assessment. If they try the truancy scare tactics, the hard work is telling them you aren’t concerned because you are home schooling on those days. If they tell you that you have to withdraw your child to avoid STAAR, tell them you know that’s not true. They can’t show you a law or regulation that says so.
2016 Update: Due to amendments to the truancy law, if the student otherwise has good attendance, missing a week of school for Opt Out will not put you at risk of truancy.
We are here to support you. We’ll fight for you if you want. But what we can’t do is give you the backbone to do what you already know is right. Only you can do that hard work. You’ll have amazing support and cheering crowds. Your kids will have what they deserve. But not if you wait for permission. You don’t ask the school for permission on any of your other child rearing decisions. Why do you want it now?