As the first results of the STAAR assessment come in and the days left in the school year slip away, more and more parentsof kids who failed or did not take the first assessment are receiving notices that their kids are “required” to go to summer school. Round Rock ISD is even sending notices that the district has registered the student for summer school. They may tell you that if they don’t attend, they will be in violation of the compulsory attendance laws. They may tell you that unless you attend summer school you can’t be promoted by the GPC. As parents of 5th and 8th graders there is one simple and important fact you need to know:
Schools cannot unilaterally require your child to attend summer school as a result of their STAAR results.
The notices these schools are sending are a blend of truth and fiction, and it is important to understand what part is true and when you need to be concerned about it. Let’s start with the part that has some truth to it. The compulsory attendance statute does state that (d) “Unless specifically exempted by Section 25.086, a student enrolled in a school district must attend:
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(3) an accelerated instruction program to which the student is assigned under Section 28.0211;
and Section 28.0211 (a-1) states that “[a]ccelerated instruction may require participation of the student before or after normal school hours and may include participation at times of the year outside normal school operations.”
This would seem to indicate that a school really can require your kid to go to summer school if they fail STAAR. However, for parents of 5th and 8th graders, the key is this. After the second administration of STAAR, if a child has still not passed, the accelerated instruction must be determined by the Grade Placement Committee that you are a part of. This is clear in the statute where it states:
“After a student fails to perform satisfactorily on an assessment instrument a second time, a grade placement committee shall be established to prescribe the accelerated instruction the district shall provide to the student before the student is administered the assessment instrument the third time.”
And the parent is a member of this committee! In other words, the school may not unilaterally send your kid to summer school for not passing STAAR. A quick caution, there is no GPC process for grades 3, 4, 6 or 7. If you get a summer school notice in those grades you will need to either protest and reach a new agreement with the school, exercise your 26.010 opt out rights, or withdraw your child from the school for the summer.
It is apparent based on parental reports that most schools are skipping the GPC meeting after the second administration and sending out summer school notices. So what should the strategy be for parents who are receiving these notices. The first option would be to request your GPC meeting as soon as the second STAAR assessment is taken and come up with an agreeable Accelerated Instruction plan. Since there is no required time, length, form or content of accelerated instruction, I recommend that parents propose a short home based or online program. The more research you have done into what a plan like this would look like, the better chance you have of succeeding. The school just needs to document their file for the state. The more you help them do that, the better chance they agree. The second option would be to simply ignore it. Any accelerated instruction plan following the second assessment that is created by the school and not by the GPC is legally void. Make sure that you are looking carefully for notices and do not miss the meeting if your school schedules one. If you ignore the notice of the GPC meeting, the school can proceed without you.
Finally, please note that when the GPC meets to consider promotion, they are again required to prescribe accelerated instruction. Further, for 5th and 8th graders note that “A student who fails to perform satisfactorily on an assessment instrument specified under Subsection (a) and who is promoted to the next grade level must complete accelerated instruction required under Subsection (a-1) before placement in the next grade level. A student who fails to complete required accelerated instruction may not be promoted.” For this reason, it is dangerous to refuse the accelerated instruction that follows the first failed attempt. It is very important that the parents and the school agree on what that accelerated instruction should be. Make sure that when you refuse, the schools agreement is specifically phrased as an agreement on accelerated instruction – not just an exemption or excuse. Again, accelerated instruction can be as simple as a single online lesson or one in school tutorial. Whatever it is, make sure it is documented and agreed.