But They Have to Pass STAAR to Graduate

I can’t tell you how tired I am of hearing this.  Parents of kids as young as third grade hear this.  Some parents have even been told that passing STAAR in elementary school is required to graduate high school.  We’ll file that claim as “too stupid to merit a response.”  But let’s consider what underlies these types of claims being made to parents of younger students.  The only reason to mention the EOC requirements to a elementary or middle school student as a reason to take STAAR is an underlying belief that taking the 3rd to 8th grade STAAR somehow prepares the kids for their high school EOCs. (EOC is what STAAR is called in high school.  Every EOC is a STAAR and there are no high school STAAR assessments that are not EOCs). Let’s consider three reasons why this argument is weak.  First, the Grade 3-8 assessments are generalized grade level (in theory) academic assessments untethered from any specific class content.  The EOCs on the other hand are designed to assess content mastery at the end of a specified course of instruction.  These are two different objectives, and they should not be conflated.  Second, there has never been any demonstration that simply taking STAAR makes students any better at taking it the next time.  To the contrary, the research tends to show that the kids who pass one tend to pass others and kids who fail are not somehow elevated to passing by more test taking practice.  Finally, it ignores the fact that the curriculum is packed with assessments – whether part of the class or part of district benchmarking – designed to mimic STAAR.  Your students will have no shortage of “practice” before their first EOC.  But let’s get back to the point.  Do you really have to pass STAAR to graduate?  The answer is no.

Now, let’s be clear.  Passing all five EOC assessments is one way a student can meet the requirements for graduation from a public high school.  (Notably no such requirements apply to private schools or home schoolers.)  But it is not the only way.  What are the other ways?

  1. Use substitute assessments.  Each high school EOC has one or more nationally recognized assessment that can be taken in place of the STAAR EOC.  If you score at the passing standard, then you have satisfied the EOC graduation requirement for that course without ever taking the EOC.  Pass all five substitute assessments and you graduate without ever taking STAAR.  Note, the existence of substitute assessments is a matter of state law.   Schools do not have the option to “refuse” the use of substitute assessments.  Likewise, they cannot require a student to attempt the STAAR EOC before accepting the substitute assessment.  No such rule exists.
  2. Graduate by IGC.  In 2015, faced with nearly 30% of seniors having failed to pass all five EOCs, the Texas legislature created individual graduation committees to permit any student who has failed to meet performance standards on two or fewer EOCs to graduate by vote of a committee of school staff and the parent.  This is often referred to as “3 of 5”, signifying that the student needs to have passed three EOCs to be eligible.  While this is not really complete, it is generally true for students who spend all four years in Texas public high schools.  So clearly the law allows graduation without passing all five EOCs and when schools omit that, it is purposeful.  In addition, any substitute assessment counts as one of the “three.”  As a result, the student could pass three substitute assessments, turn in blank EOCs on the other two, and then go to an IGC to graduate having never taken an EOC.  Or, a parent whose child already has finished three EOCs, or some combination of EOCs and substitute assessments could refuse the remaining EOCs and go to IGC.  Either way, five EOCs are not required to graduate.
  3. ARD Committee – For Special Education Students Only – If your child is covered by an IEP, they can graduate simply by the ARD committee accepting their “participation” in STAAR as sufficient for graduation.  There is no minimum number of assessments passed.  There are no retake requirements and no minimum score requirements.  This method of graduation does not preclude graduating with endorsements, honors or any other recognition.

And if you don’t make any of those options work, you aren’t stuck.  There are two remaining options to make sure your kid graduates.  One is accredited.  The other isn’t.

  1. CVEP Program – (One option for students who are unable to pass the substitute assessments or get to an IGC is the CVEP Program.  This method involves using your local public school for all instruction and activities needed for graduation.  Those credits are then transferred to an accredited private school which evaluates them, provides a short course of remote, self-guided instruction, and certifies the student for graduation.  One parent in this group used CVEP to save her child’s enlistment in the armed forces which was threatened by his failure to pass enough EOC’s to graduate.  On very short notice, they were enrolled in CVEP, completed the program, received transcripts and diplomas and successfully entered the armed forces.  The downside to this method is that there is a small cost (currently $500) associated with it.
  2. Homeschool Graduation – If an accredited diploma is unimportant to you, you can declare your child a home school graduate.  The downside here is that if your child is planning to attend college, you will not have the traditional homeschool documentation that colleges expect.  However, with the transcript from the high school they should accept his academic readiness.  We do not have any specific reports of parents successfully using this method to enter college or the armed forces.  I have serious doubts that this will work for the armed forces, as it is transparently not “traditional” home schooling.

So the next time the school tells you that you have to pass five EOCs to graduate high school, you can just nod knowingly and wonder whether they really don’t know or whether it is just more subtle intimidation for parents.

January 26, 2022


April 3, 2024

Comments (15)

  • My Autistic son in 2020 graduated. His school he attended & was supposed to graduate from wouldn’t give him his diploma cause he refused to take the STAAR since 10th grade. It gave him bad anxiety so I made Dr appts those days. His ARD committee refused to let him graduate with his class, I told them they can take that diploma & shove it up their a** cause he had all the credits to graduate, transferred him to a local homeschool the middle of 12th grade & that is how we got him a diploma. He is now in college

  • Im having the same problem my child didn’t receive his diploma due to the fact that he gets anxiety and he has ADHD been diagnosed with that since he was 5 he always had trouble testing and the schoolknew it.Now my son can’t receive his diploma but has a completion of highschool..what should I do i need help and advice to help my son

  • What are the rules and laws that support
    “There are no retake requirements and no minimum score requirements. This method of graduation does not preclude graduating with endorsements, honors or any other recognition.” ?

    • I guess you re-read this article since at least two of the methods “they” have no control over and they also have no discretion to reject sub assessments if you meet the passing score. So there’s that.

  • Can you give an example of what a sub assessment would look like?
    How would one begin approaching an ARD committee about accepting “participation”, and what is considered participation – Marking S and just sitting through the time?

    We’re at a new school that’s been great, but I want to run at the thought of STAAR, but am trying to figure out the options mentioned above, because we are on IEP. Thanks!

    • An example of a substitute assessment is anything found on the commissioner’s list of substitute assessments. These range from PSAT 8/9 to IB and AP tests.

      I recommend parents go to the ARD meeting with the proposed language in hand. And yes, refusing and accepting an S is participation.

  • I am 25 years old. I have all my high school credits but was told I can’t graduate unless I pass the STAAR Test. I have tried several times but am not able to pass English 1 & 2 and Algebra 1. I don’t know what to do at this point

  • Everyone it really dosen’t matter. I refuse to take the test , went to my counselor and she gave me all the credits to graduate and that was it . I took that transfer and started college. To be honest company don’t really ask to see a high school diploma. Just certified your self in a trade and you’ll live not good but great!!

  • I am so glad you wrote this article for information. However, I want to stress something. Although there are alternative methods to get the diploma, really and truly, the easiest way is not trying to get around, but just going through. Alternative methods are for those with special needs not just because someone doesn’t like the test or doesn’t like to test. Our IGC is a big pain on our campus. Trust me. This is not the route you want to go. ARD committees are not allowed to just “excuse a test” without a whole lot of data to back it up. This is NOT because they don’t want to, believe me! It’s because the state requires these tests. The animosity should be at those who are making the rules not those who are having to enforce them. PLEASE contact your congressmen!

    • Hey Amber,

      You are barking up the wrong tree and you are also wrong on many counts. We DO NOT PARTICIPATE IN YOUR PRECIOUS STAAR. OK? It’s not a matter of easy. It is a matter of choosing not to participate in a system that is destroying public education. This article gives parents the other paths. Let me be clear. If I had my way EVERY parent would go CVEP and you could all report 0% graduation rates and let the state sort out the effects of its poor policy. That’s not my job so long as 90% of the education sector remains frozen in fear of speaking up. Much less posting here telling parents to get on board and just do it. You don’t understand what we are doing here.

      If your school chooses to have an IGC committee that is a hindrance, guess what? That’s a local decision to obstruct the future of your students over fealty to STAAR. And you want us to complain to the state legislators because your campus or district has shitty leadership? WOW. Why aren’t YOU doing something about the war your campus has against its own students? BTW, my son graduated via IGC and it absolutely was and is the route we wanted to go. Or do you have a magic pill to give academic fluency to late arriving immigrants in four years in a district without a functioning ELL program?

      And we know, from the many parents who successful use ARDs to graduate that likewise choosing to be difficult and demand all kinds of data is also a local decision. An ARD committee could waive STAAR simply by noting that one of the classroom/testing accommodations of the IEP aren’t permitted on STAAR. IDEA trumps the state requirements, every time.

      So I want to stress something. This site is to encourage parents to exercise their rights, not be compliant cogs.

  • Admin – Thank you so much for this reply to Ms. Amber & for the wealth of knowledge offered on this site. We are headed into an ARD meeting now for my dear 16 yr old ADHD god-daughter who is an A/B student but cannot pass this dreaded STAAR test. It’s ridiculous.

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