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Accountability Articles STAAR | EOC Testing

Graduating By Committee – General Ed Students

This article will discuss the Individual Graduation Committee Process for students who have not passed all five of the EOC exit exams as they approach graduation.  This articles does not address the graduation options for Special Education students.  It does include any student covered by a 504 plan.  The IGC process allows a student to graduate by committee decision if they have failed to comply with the EOC requirements “for not more than two courses.”  So let’s start at the beginning and walk through it.

The Texas Education Code requires passage of five End of Course assessments to receive a diploma from a public high school.  (CITE).  Those five courses are English I, English II, Biology, Algebra I and US History.  Three of those are usually taken in ninth grade, one in tenth grade and one in eleventh grade.  A student who does not pass the assessment has another opportunity in the summer and then three opportunities in each following year to try to pass.  So a parent who permitted their kid to stay on this merry go round could potentially have their kid take 46 EOC assessments while chasing that paper.

Fortunately, there are alternatives.  Many parents choose to have their kids attempt substitute assessments.  But usually when a parent comes here looking for help, it is because their junior or senior has passed some of the EOCs, but still lacks having all five needed for graduation.  And time is running out.

The good news is that for many of these kids, they do not need to pass all five EOCs to graduate.  For most of them, the IGC (Individual Graduation Committee) option offers them a path to the diploma.  A diploma issued by the IGC is precisely the same as the diploma a student who passes all five EOCs will receive.  There is no notation or limitation on the student’s ability to attend college, enter the military, or make any other use of their high school diploma as a result of using the IGC process.

Who is Eligible to Graduate Via IGC?

This is determined by the plain language of the statute: “This section applies only to an 11th or 12th grade student who has failed to comply with the end-of-course assessment instrument performance requirements under Section 39.025 for not more than two courses.” Tex Educ. Code §28.0258 (a).  Now this seems simple enough – pass three out of five and you are eligible — but there are a few caveats to deal with.

First, the Commissioner has added requirements to the statute.  We can argue about whether he can restrict access to IGC graduation in a manner that the legislature did not, but for purposes of this article we are trying to get you to the IGC without a fight.  The commissioners rules add an “attempt” requirement to IGC eligibility.

A student may not graduate under an individual graduation committee if the student did not take each EOC assessment required by this subchapter or an approved substitute assessment in Subchapter DD of this chapter (relating to Commissioner’s Rules Concerning Substitute Assessments for Graduation) for each course in which the student was enrolled in a Texas public school for which there is an EOC assessment. A school district or charter school shall determine whether the student took each required EOC assessment or an approved substitute assessment required by Subchapter DD of this chapter. For purposes of this section only, a student who does not make an attempt to take all required EOC assessments may not qualify to graduate by means of an individual graduation committee.

19 TAC §101.3022(e).  Here the commissioner rules say two different things while repeating itself.  First, it says that to graduate by IGC, the student must have actually taken each EOC or a substitute assessment for each course they took in a Texas public school that has an EOC attached to it.  Then at the end, it seems to say that they must actually have attempted all of the EOCs, not the EOC or substitute assessment.  Let me be clear that I do not think this intends to say that a student who passes a substitute assessment and never attempts the EOC cannot graduate by IGC.  Or similarly, if the student took and passed Algebra I in Oklahoma (and thus exempt from EOC passage), I don’t think this rule means he has to attempt the Algebra I EOC before being eligible to graduate by IGC. But I do think that if they fail to pass the substitute assessment and never attempt to the EOC for that course, the school might deny them access to the IGC.  For that reason, if you are relying in an IGC to graduate, we recommend that you attempt each EOC that you are missing one time.  Refusing in person (turning in a blank answer sheet or tabbing through to the endand submitting) is an attempt.

How do we count “no more than two.”

As a matter of shorthand, we often say things like “3 out of 5” makes you eligible for an IGC.  But we really do need to use the no more than two language.  The number of required assessments to graduate is going to vary according to the student.  As sec. 29.025 points out, the satisfactory performance requirement only applies to “a course in which the student is enrolled and for which an end-of-course assessment instrument is administered.”  If the student was in private school or out of state at the time of their enrollment, they do not have to pass an EOC to graduate.  So those do not count when counting whether the student “has failed to comply with the end-of-course assessment instrument performance requirements under Section 39.025 for not more than two courses.”

Example 1: Joe takes and passes Algebra I and English I in private school in 9th grade.  In 10th grade, he goes to public school, takes and passes the Biology I course and EOC, passes English 2 course but fails the EOC, and then passes US History in 11th grade, but fails that EOC also.  Joe is eligible to graduate by IGC.  Sec. 39.025 only required that he take and pass Biology, English II and US History to graduate.  Even though he has only passed one EOC, he has failed to comply with the requirement in only two classes.  Because he has not failed to comply in more than two classes, he remains eligible to graduate under an IGC.

Example 2: Miranda is a newly arrived ELL student in 9th grade.  She received the ELL exemption from passing English I and the assessment is not administered to her.  She fails all her 9th grade EOCs that she attempts, but later passes Algebra I and Biology.  She fails passes all her classes, but fails her English 2 EOC and her US History EOC.  Miranda is not eligible to graduate by IGC.  Although she has only failed two EOCs, her exemption from English I comes from an administrative rule, and not from sec. 39.025. She has failed to comply with sec. 39.025 requirements in English I, English 2 and US History.  This is more than two classes.  Note that if Miranda passed all EOCs other than the English I exempted EOC, she would not need an IGC because she could graduate using her exemption.

When does the IGC meet?

This is one of the most frustrating parts of the statute.  The law provides that the school “shall establish an individual graduation committee at the end of or after the student’s 11th grade year to determine whether the student may qualify to graduate as provided by this section.” Unfortunately, the day before 12th grade graduation is still “after” the 11th grade year, and many schools have taken this approach of waiting to the last minute.  The good news?  The  law expressly permits schools to start the IGC process as soon as 11th grade ends.  There is no need to sweat graduation to the last minute.  Parents should request the IGC be established at the end of 11th grade and be persistent in the Fall of 12th grade.  The IGC can meet, prescribe any remediation required, and ease everyone’s concerns as the student completes any required work. If the school claims they do not meet until late spring, remember this is not a legal requirement.  Rather it is just a local preference.  There is no reason the school cannot get started in the fall.  You should  be  persistent with the campus and district administration seeking an early start to the process.  Engage your local school board if needed.  Keeping people hanging on and worried is unnecessary, counterproductive and often just punitive.  We should not tolerate it.  In all things, document in writing and record phone calls.

Do I have to keep taking the EOCs every time they come up?

NO!  Even the commissioner’s rules only require a single attempt.  The school is required to offer it.  Your choice not to take it does not disqualify you from IGC eligibility. When the IGC process was new, a very uninformed ESC put out a powerpoint claiming there was a two attempt requirement for IGC eligibility.  It spread like wildfire because there was no other guidance available.  We had to intervene to get this corrected at the ESC level, but many campuses still believe it.  Even in the last two years, Pearland ISD has claimed a two attempt requirement existed. It doesn’t.  We even wrote an article about it.  IGC Graduation Does NOT Require Two Failed Attempts on EOCs  The myth was so pervasive that the TEA even had to respond to it in its rulemaking,

99 Tex Reg 5900, 5901 (Oct. 11, 2019).  One attempt satisfies the commissioner’s rule.  Nothing else is required.

Who is a member of the IGC?

The commissioner rules (19 TAC 74.1025) answer this question.  The individual graduation committee shall consist of the following:

(1) the principal or principal’s designee;
(2) for each EOC assessment instrument on which the student failed to perform satisfactorily, the teacher of the course;
(3) the department chair or lead teacher supervising the teacher described by paragraph (2) of this subsection; and
(4) as applicable:
(A) the student’s parent or person standing in parental relation to the student;
(B) a designated advocate if the person described by subparagraph (A) of this paragraph is unable to serve; or
(C) the student, at the student’s option, if the student is at least 18 years of age or is an emancipated minor.

In the event that the teacher identified in subsection (f)(2) of this section is unavailable, the principal shall designate as an alternate member of the committee a teacher certified in the subject of the EOC assessment on which the student failed to perform satisfactorily and who is most familiar with the student’s performance in that subject area.

In the event that the individual identified in subsection (f)(3) of this section is unavailable, the principal shall designate as an alternate member of the committee an experienced teacher certified in the subject of the EOC assessment on which the student failed to perform satisfactorily and who is familiar with the content of and instructional practices for the applicable course.

A few practical notes: schools often try to stack these committees with all sorts of people that are not on the list above: counselors, testing coordinators, multiple administrators.  So long as the outlook is “how do we get this kid graduated” that shouldn’t be a problem.  However, if it starts to get contentious, realize that there may be people piping up who shouldn’t even be in the room.  It may make sense to identify who is actually on the committee and ask those who are not to either leave, or not interrupt the discussions.

With students who are 18, the parent is the presumed representative.  However, because the student has the option to serve instead, schools often pull students from class and try to do these meetings on little to no notice.  This is one reason to be proactive in getting the meetings scheduled.  Also, discuss the importance of the meeting with your kid and see if he will write a directive to the school that they want you representing them and should contact you for any meetings.

How does the IGC make its decision?

To understand the various factors the legislature requires the committee to review, it is helpful to look at the IGC meeting guide from ESC 12. (View the form here.)

In Section III you will find the required committee considerations.  No single factor has dispositive weight.  It is not the case that one “no” on a factor means you can’t graduate.  Rather the test is a balancing test and the committee can use its discretion to weight each factor as it sees fit.  At the end of the day, the committee can make a recommendation to graduate the student or not.  If the decision is to graduate them, they must require either a project in each lacking EOC course or the preparation and review of a portfolio demonstrating mastery of the subject.  We strongly urge parents to retain work from each EOC course that is not passed so the portfolio is a viable option.  Save good test results, papers that got good grades and any other work that shows the student has a mastery of the subject.  Without this, it is impossible to do a portfolio and you must default to a project, which means new work.

What can the IGC require for graduation?

A project or a portfolio for each course that does not have a passing EOC or substitute assessment must be assigned if the student is permitted to graduate.  The committee is also permitted to assign additional remediation in the subject areas.  This is another reason to demand an early IGC meeting.  If there is going to be remediation, the student should know about it well before graduation.

My schools says a project is required for the IGC, is this true?

No, there is no specified project requirement.  In theory, the IGC makes an individual determination for each student.  A project is one potential requirement.

How many votes do I need to graduate?

The decision of the committee must be unanimous.  This is why it is important that only the actual members participate and vote, and that anyone with a conflict of interest not participate.

Can I appeal a determination that denies graduation?

No, the decision of the committee is final.

Recommendations for Parents

  1. Try to use substitute assessments to graduate/gain eligibility for IGC.  If your student has successfully completed the substitute assessment requirements, they do not need an EOC result to graduate.  For students who approach senior year lacking assessments, ask whether the student has taken PSAT, SAT or ACT.  Many schools give PSATs to 9th graders.  Those results are in their file and may meet Algebra I or English I standards.  If the sub assessment score is good enough, you don’t need the EOC and might pick up the missing assessment you need to graduate or get to committee.
  2. Save all work from EOC courses.  Preserve the portfolio option!  Set aside tests, worksheets, projects and papers from each EOC course until you know if they have passed the EOC of substitute assessment.
  3. Start the IGC process early.  Do not wait for the school to contact you!  As soon as 12th grade starts, get that IGC issue in front of the school and get a meeting set.

Categories
Accountability News STAAR | EOC Testing

No, Your Kid Won’t Be Retained for Opting Out (2022 and Final (?) Edition)

The big threat is over.  No longer do parents have to listen to petty tyrants threaten to retain straight A students if they don’t take STAAR. Mind you, there was never a single instance of an Opt Out kid being retained for not taking STAAR reported to us in ten years.  But that didn’t stop the schools from threatening it and the parents from believing it.

But those days are gone.  One of the positives of HB 4545 is the elimination of SSI STAAR passage requirements for 5th and 8th grade.  Since high school promotion never depended on STAAR, we no longer have to say “it’s a possibility, but never really happens.”

Instead, we can simply say, “the school cannot retain your kid for not passing STAAR.”  And even the TEA agrees with us.

Note: It is theoretically possible that a school district could impose a local policy requiring passage as a part of the promotion decision.  However, we are unaware of any districts with such a policy in place currently.

Categories
Accountability News STAAR | EOC Testing

No, Your Kid Won’t Be Retained for Opting Out (2021 Edition)

Shockingly, some school officials still appear to be using the threat of retention to compel parents to bring their kids to campus mid-pandemic and take the STAAR.  Usually, when this happens, we go into a lengthy explanation of how retention is theoretically possibly, but practically never happens. Then we walk you through the GPC process to assure your kid is promoted. But this year, showing the school to be liars is even easier.  See, the TEA officially removed all SSI (promotion and retention) requirements from STAAR this year.  Don’t believe me?  That hurts my feelings, but I will indulge you.

Here is the official communication from the TEA website.

So feel brave.  Feel confident.  If someone at school is so bold as to tell you that your child risks being held back this year for opting out of STAAR, laugh politely at them, and send them the link.

Discussion of this article is welcome in the forum.

Categories
Accountability STAAR | EOC Testing

TPERN Urges Comment Opposing Sub Assessment Rule

We know the TEA plans to make it harder for kids to use substitute assessments to graduate high school. This rule is the first step. Please read and send a comment to the TEA! We need to flood them to have a chance!!!
HOW DO WE COMMENT?
Go to the Web Address for Public Comment: https://form.jotform.com/81206305801142

WHAT IS THE ISSUE?

The TEA is proposing to require students to take the STAAR EOC at least one time before using a substitute assessment. This is not in the law and is not needed to address federal accountability concerns.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
Assessment policy is the business of the legislature. The federal government does not require EOCs for high school graduation. The Texas legislature has determined that students with good scores on national assessments should be able to use those in place of the STAAR EOC scores to satisfy state graduation requirements. The TEA is proposing to limit that ability by refusing to allow passing – even perfect – national assessment scores count unless the student first attempts the STAAR EOC. Anytime an agency thinks it has the power to override the law passed by our elected representative, it is important and we all should be concerned.
WHY ARE THEY DOING THIS?
Because the US Dept. of Education requires the state to assess kids three times during high school as part of their accountability plan. Since the scoring rubric is not the same on STAAR EOC and the national assessment, the feds will not let TEA count substitute assessments for accountability purposes. The TEA is messing with graduation requirements because they want every kid to take the STAAR for the federal government.
WHY DON’T THEY JUST REQUIRE THE KIDS TO TAKE THE EOC BUT NOT LIMIT THE GRADUATION OPTIONS THE LEGISLATURE CREATED?
The odd thing is, that is also in this rule. So we should ask what the real motive is for trying to make graduation by substitute assessment more difficult. The bottom line is that this rule on substitute assessment for graduation is absolutely not required for accountability reasons.
WHAT CAN I DO?

The TEA is accepting comments on this rule until November 12th. They can be made using an online form or by mail. Details and talking points are attached. If we want to have an impact, we must FLOOD them with opposition. Emphasize that part (c)(1) of this rule is absolutely not needed, because part (e) already requires the assessment for accountability purposes.

THEN WHAT?

Send us a copy of your submission to txedrights@gmail.com! Copy House Public Education vice-chair Diego Bernal at diego.bernal@house.texas.gov and Kirk Watson in the Senate: kirk.watson@senate.texas.gov. If you send your comment on or before October 25, add these words at the end: “I request a public hearing.”

See the notes here!!

https://docdro.id/OuJvGxW

Categories
Accountability STAAR | EOC Testing

TPERN Condemns TEA Proposal On Substitute Assessments; Accuses Commissioner of Exceeding Authority

Today the Texas Education Agency proposes a rule[1] that would tell a high school student who has met the required passing scores on state approved nationally recognized assessment instruments that they are not entitled to a Texas High School Diploma unless they also submit to take a state created assessment for which they have no required performance standard.  It is the ultimate bureaucratic creation of data for the sake of data, and it is an unnecessary, punitive measure intended to threaten and intimidate parents into abandoning control of the education of their children.  More importantly, it is an illegal attempt by the commissioner to substitute his judgment for the judgment of the legislature.  Any Texan who believes in the separation of powers and the rights of parents to direct the education of their children must oppose this rule.  TPERN will be asking its supporters to voice their opinion through the public comment process.

The TEA proposed rule is an unnecessary and improper incursion into the constitutional powers of the legislature.  The substitute assessment statute allows the commissioner to define a method for the use of substitute assessments, but it does not permit him to add impediments to their use not contained in the statute.  The law is clear that the legislature intends that “a student’s satisfactory performance [on a substitute] assessment instrument shall be used to satisfy the requirements concerning an end-of-course assessment instrument.”

The commissioner errs by adding an EOC attempt requirement where none exists and where the existing statute in fact contemplates the opposite.

“A student who fails to perform satisfactorily on a test or other assessment instrument authorized under this subsection, other than the PSAT or the ACT-Plan, may retake that test or other assessment instrument for purposes of this subsection or may take the appropriate end-of-course assessment instrument.  A student who fails to perform satisfactorily on the PSAT or the ACT-Plan must take the appropriate end-of-course assessment instrument.”

As set forth above, for instruments other than the PSAT and the ACT-Plan, the legislature clearly gives the student the choice of attempting another substitute OR taking the EOC.  The commissioners rule deprives the student of this choice.  Likewise, consider the clear statutory imperative of initial attempts in allowing the use of the TSI as a substitute assessment.  In that case the legislature wrote:

A student who, after retaking an end-of-course assessment instrument for Algebra I or English II, has failed to perform satisfactorily as required by Subsection (a), but who receives a score of proficient on the Texas Success Initiative (TSI) diagnostic assessment for the corresponding subject for which the student failed to perform satisfactorily on the end-of-course assessment instrument satisfies the requirement concerning the Algebra I or English II end-of-course assessment, as applicable.

Here the legislature has clearly required two attempts as a condition to using TSI scores as a substitute for Algebra I or English II EOCs.  The substitute assessment statutes are notably silent on any other pre-requisite attempts as a condition for the use of substitute assessments.

Where the legislature has expressed its will in one area relating to substitute assessments, but withheld any such requirements from other areas, the commissioner may not impose additional restrictions by rule.  The commissioner’s efforts to amend the statute by rulemaking exceed his authority and must be rejected.

Moreover, the restriction on graduation is wholly unnecessary.  What the commissioner wants is higher participation in the EOCs for accountability purposes.  This is accomplished simply with his amendment of Rule 101.4002 (e).  This amendment alone would require a student to take each EOC one time, but it would not prevent a qualified student from graduating if they failed to take the EOC.

By attempting to condition the use of substitute assessments on an initial failure of the state EOCs, the Commissioner markedly changes the law.  This is not a permissible use of rulemaking.  Moreover, it is wholly unnecessary.  The commissioner’s decision threatens to keep good students from graduating by rule when all statutory requirements have been met.  It cannot stand.

Finally, TPERN condemns the TEA’s willful avoidance of the legislature as the proper venue to address this issue.  In the proposed rule, the TEA admits that it was aware of the accountability issue since December 2018.  An entire legislative session passed without ANY ATTEMPT to adjust the substitute assessment statute.  Once the legislature had safely adjourned, the commissioner then undertook to change the law in the darkness of agency rulemaking, rather than in the sunshine of the Capitol dome.  This cynical approach to the rule of law demeans the vote of every Texan and should be repudiated by every sitting legislator.

[1] The proposed rule can be viewed at https://docdro.id/khK93zB

Categories
Accountability STAAR | EOC Testing

Texas Republican Files Bill to Eliminate STAAR Uses

Website Article (CBS 7)

Odessa Republican Brooks Landgraf has filed HB 736 which would eliminate the use of STAAR for promotion, graduation and accountability purposes.  Stay tuned for information on how we can help!

 

Categories
Accountability STAAR | EOC Testing

Who’s To Blame

This is a tough time for Opt Out parents because the assessment is happening and there is a lot of pushback at the school level. Sadly, this year more than ever it seems a number of school district employees have entered the TTAAS Facebook group intent on excusing every complaint a parent has. WRONG strategy this week. Just empathize. Empathize and don’t deflect. Everybody here understands that the TEA tells schools how to administer the assessment and to score refused assessments. Everyone here understands how promotion and graduation work. What people fail to acknowledge is that, apart from that, schools have wide latitude in how they choose to respond to parents who refuse assessment. If a parent complaint hurts and you respond by blaming the TEA for a local decision, I (and likely others) am going to challenge you. In the same vein, when a parent blames a school for a TEA mandate, we are quick to correct them as well. But there are many things I have seemed excused as TEA “requirements” that just aren’t.

NOBODY requires schools to lie to parents about consequences.
NOBODY requires schools to go beyond the instructions and add restrictions on to the students,
NOBODY requires schools to threaten retention
NOBODY requires schools to pretend passing STAAR is the only way to get promoted to the next grade.
NOBODY requires schools to not check if substitute assessments have already satisfied some EOC requirements.
NOBODY requires schools to try to bully A/B students into summer school (I mean test prep) because they didn’t take STAAR.
NOBODY requires principals to try to intimidate parents into submitting their kids for assessment.
NOBODY requires schools to wait until August to promote kids by GPC is they refused STAAR.
NOBODY requires schools to harass parents of kids who aren’t at school on STAAR day.
NOBODY requires teachers to tell students they their jobs depend on how the student does on STAAR.
NOBODY requires schools to lock down the building and ban visitors on STAAR days.
NOBODY requires schools to hold students who have finished their STAAR in the classroom until the end of the entire testing time.
NOBODY requires schools to tell students they can’t talk to their parents about STAAR.
NOBODY requires students to eat sack lunches at their desk on STAAR days.

These are all local decisions, and if you think it is off limits to talk about that, we are not on the same side at all. If your school or district is doing any of those things, and you try to blame the TEA for it, then you are going to get pushback here, because it’s false information.  If your distrct makes bad local decisions, CHANGE them.  If you think they are correct, OWN them.  Don’t push the blame onto the TEA for local decisions.  We have plenty of things to blame the TEA for without getting into things they haven’t done.

Categories
Accountability STAAR | EOC Testing

Call to Action: Comment on Proposed Accountability Rules

Despite knowing that the Grade 3-5, and likely the Grade 6-8 STAAR, assessments do not comply with the time limits set in Education Code, the TEA is moving forward with plans to use those ratings in the 2015-2016 accountability ratings. This is done via the rulemaking process.  Parents should submit public comment on this matter to the TEA. The proposed rule is 19 T.A.C. §97.1001. Public comment is accepted until June 27, 2016. Comments may be submitted via e-mail to rules@tea.texas.gov. The following statement, or one similar to it, should be raised in comments.

“The proposed rule 19 T.A.C. §97.1001 should be amended to require that no state assessment instrument may be used in the determination of district or campus accountability ratings unless such assessment complies with the requirements of the Texas Education Code, Texas Administrative Code, and any applicable federal law or regulation.”

Parents may also wish to cite the myriad problems with STAAR administration this year, along with the various superintendent letters on the issue.  But please, make sure you include a comment about the assessments needing to comply with the law!!!

If you wish, you can cc TPERN on the e-mail at txedrights “at” gmail.com

TPERN’s public comment is pictured below:

publiccomment