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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.

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Articles STAAR | EOC Testing

Bubbling All “A” on STAAR is a BAD Idea

For reasons that are not clear to me, we’ve seen a sharp increase in “helpful” parents suggesting the answer to STAAR is to go along and bubble all “A” or all “C” or make some random design.  PLEASE DO NOT LISTEN TO THAT SUGGESTION!  Bubbling all the same answer will produce data.  That data will them be displayed across numerous axes and presented in a manner that demonstrates the deficiencies of your child academically.  The teachers and staff will then develop a plan to remediate your child based on this data you have so helpfully created.  Electives will be dropped and special state funded remediation classes will be added to your child’s schedule.  And when you go to complain, there will be data demonstrating exactly why they are doing what they are doing.

Now, maybe you will convince them to actually look at the answers and see that she chose the same answer. (P.S. If you actually tell your kid to bubble randomly you are stuck with the data – WORST ADVICE EVER).  Maybe that will convince them to drop the nonsense, but don’t count on it.  Because following the data is the safe play of the lazy and weak-minded.  They are safe professionally to just do what the data says than to think independently and say “this student was making a statement when they chose all the same answer.”  (Incidentally, you can’t choose all the same answer, because STAAR choices alternate between starting with A and F – now try explaining your strategy when you have to meet with the school!).

 

So what can you do to effectively refuse the assessment?

If taking a paper administration:

1) Bubble nothing

2) Bubble at least two choices for every question

Both of these options will produce no data other than the raw score.

If taking an online administration:

Page through to the end and submit the assessment.  Once the submission is confirmed, you are done.  The STAAR Test Administration manual indicates that there are three steps to successfully submitting the test:

We also recommend giving your child pre-written notes or cards indicating that they are refusing (by whichever method you wish) and asking the teacher to contact the parent if they have any questions but not to pressure the student to disobey the parent.

Comment on this article on the TxEdRights Forum!

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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.

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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
STAAR | EOC Testing

Expressio Unius Est Exclusio Alterius

This Latin phrase, used in the law, means “the expression of one thing is the exclusion of the other.” In other words, when certain things are specified in a law, an intention to exclude all others from its operation may be inferred.

Why do I tell you this? Because the brilliant lawyers that school districts hire with your tax dollars love to ignore that age old maxim when it comes to parental requests to opt out of full period AI. You see, the Opt Out law says: “(a) A parent is entitled to remove the parent’s child temporarily from a class or other school activity that conflicts with the parent’s religious or moral beliefs if the parent presents or delivers to the teacher of the parent’s child a written statement authorizing the removal of the child from the class or other school activity.  A parent is not entitled to remove the parent’s child from a class or other school activity to avoid a test or to prevent the child from taking a subject for an entire semester.

Now catch that last part. The law specifies two things that define when a parent is NOT ENTITLED to remove the child from an activity. The first is to avoid a test, which does not apply to full period AI classes. The second is to prevent a child from taking a subject for an entire semester. This also does not apply to removal from full period AI as (a) the student already has other math or language arts classes and (b) by offering to do AI outside of the full period setting, the parent defeats any argument that AI itself is a subject we are trying to avoid.

So when the school tells you that you are not entitled to remove your child from full period AI because another part of the Education Code says its required (it doesn’t really say that, but let’s pretend with them), just remind them that under the principle of Expressio Unius Est Exclusio Alterius, accelerated instruction can never be considered an exception to 26.010, because the law presumes that all exceptions have been incorporated in the statute and unexpressed ones cannot be implied.

NOTE: This theory applies equally if not moreso to AI that is not in place of electives.

Categories
STAAR | EOC Testing

What About High School? (updated 2019)

The Opt Out movement has grown steadily with parents in Grades 3 through 8 learning to navigate the intricacies of opting out, declining accelerated instruction and handling grade placement committee meetings for Grades 5 and 8.  However, the usual thought process has always been that when the kids hit high school, the stakes rise.  Now, the TEA wields its biggest hammer: the EOC graduation requirement.  A standard line amongst opt out activists is that you simply can’t do it in high school.  But more and more Texas parents are proving that the opposite is true.  More and more Texas kids are finishing their Texas high schools without having taken some or all of the EOCS.  I go a step further.  I hold that, for a committed opt out parent, if you can put aside sentimentality and about $2.50 a week, you, and not the school, hold all the power.

Let’s begin with the best news about high school opt out.  EOC passage plays no role in grade advancement.  Advancement by grade is wholly dependent on passing the classes — just the way it should be.  Since the repeal of the 15% law, EOC exams form no part of a student’s class grade.  Again, as it should be.  EOC results have no bearing on UIL eligibility.  That is strictly based on classroom grades, as it should be.  In other words, the threats that most often deter parents at the elementary and middle school level, that their child will be retained, do not exist in high school.  If your child passes the class and obtains the academic credit, they move on with their grade.

Instead the threat is overt and codified in statute.  Unless your child passes all five EOC examinations, they cannot receive a Texas public high school diploma.  Except they can graduate via the IGC (Individual Graduation Committee) process by passing just three out of five EOCs.  Still, you say, that’s three EOCs we have to take and we want to refuse them all.  But the schools say pass three STAARs or don’t graduate.  That’s not true.  In reality, there are approved substitute assessments that neither the TEA nor the school districts publicize.  And the schools have no choice here.  The Education Code permits the use of substitute assessments.  Other than using the TSI assessment as a substitute, there is ZERO requirement that you first attempt and fail the STAAR EOC.  These substitute assessments, which can be found on the TEA website usually take the form of college readiness assessments, such as AP, IB SAT and ACT assessments.  While they are still standardized testing, these assessments have a much longer history and are much better written than the STAAR examinations.  A student who is “close” on STAAR may find these assessment levels more readily attainable.  Parents are responsible for providing the school with adequate proof of the substitute assessment score. But once they do, that student has met the EOC graduation requirement and does not need that STAAR EOC to graduate.

But maybe you are a hard core resister.  Or maybe you want to be! (Don’t we all?)  Even taking the substitute assessments is too much compliance for you!  I’m right there with you.  I never took an “EOC” to graduate.  My grades and credits earned me my diploma, not some scaled four digit score that nobody can understand.  What can you do to fight STAAR and still have your kid be an accredited high school graduate?  Well here is where the $2.50 a week and lack of sentimentality comes in. Now why did I say put aside sentimentality?  Because in my experience, the biggest impediment to a parent proactively fighting STAAR at the high school level is the parental dream of seeing their child walk across the stage and receive their high school diploma.  It is a scene played out in the parent’s head that in most instances holds far more meaning for the parent than the student.  For students, events like prom, class trips and mementos such as class rings mean far more than sitting in the Texas sun to receive a piece of paper.  To live out this dream, parents readily subject their children, despite learning disabilities, test anxiety, English language acquisition or a myriad of other causes that render STAAR an unreliable assessment, to the annual dreaded cycle of testing, retesting and summer school.  A student challenged in language arts, may take 20 ELA assessments in their high school career in hopes of getting a passing grade.  A math challenged student may take 11 assessments hoping to get that passing mark.  Hours upon hours will be spent in STAAR tutorials and summer school.  Jobs, family vacations and curriculum enriching courses will go by the wayside all for the parent’s dream of seeing the child walk the stage.

In my mind, this is foolishness.  The psychic benefit of that “moment” is grossly outweighed by the psychological trauma to the child.  My son talks about his STAAR tutorial classes as the classes for the “stupid kids.”  That is how he sees himself.  That is how his peers categorize the students pulled out for STAAR remediation. Every ounce of educational privacy rights is obliterated by pull out instruction and remediation that is visible to the peers of these students.  If I had only known . . .

Remember the $2.50 a week I told you to put away?  For about $500, a parent can transfer all the class credits their child earns during their high school career to a private school, and after a short online “tutorial”, receive a fully accredited diploma.  Your child becomes a high school graduate.  There is no stage and no cap and gown, but that credential that opens the door to high school, military service our other pre-requisites is obtained without taking a single standardized test.  The parent wins.  The child wins.  You use your taxpayer provided public schools for every single classroom credit your child needs.  Then you say “thank you very much” send a check for $500 and get the accredited diploma from a private school.  One such program is the CVEP program through The Oaks Private School.   The school is fully accredited.   The diploma is accepted for post-secondary education.  You receive full transcripts.  You win.  (The Texas Success Academy is another option.  In full disclosure, I have spoken with the person who runs the program but do not know any parents who have used it.

Personally, I have spent well over $500 on tutoring, test prep materials, and other services designed to help my now senior level son pass STAAR. (Update: My son only passed three STAARs.  We refused to continue with them and he graduated via IGC in 2015.  He’s since earned vocational certificate at the local community college and decided he wants to give academic courses a try.)  We’ve studied, crammed, argued, fought and cried over this ridiculous STAAR assessment.  When I discovered CVEP, that all stopped.  We made a deal to focus on the areas we agree he needs to improve, continue his strong classroom achievement, and when the school year ends, we’ll do the CVEP program and receive his diploma.  It’s the credential, not the ceremony that matters.  The stress level has dropped dramatically.  Had I known of this program when my son entered 9th grade, he would never have taken a single EOC.

High school parents, with a little planning and an objective outlook, you really do hold all the power.  Take as many or as few EOCs as you wish.  Try the substitute assessments, or don’t. The only threat the school has is to withhold the diploma, but you can tell them “so what.”  You don’t have to homeschool.  You don’t have to pay four years or even one semester of private school tuition.  You can use and exploit the public education you pay for with your taxes.  Your child can play sports with their peers, join the band, compete in One Act Play, and every other activity available to their neighborhood friends.  And they can do it without taking a single EOC.  All you have to do is let go of sentimentality, make it about your child, and tell the school “No thanks, we don’t need your diploma.”  High school opt out, in many ways, is easier than younger levels because the kids are more likely to be able to assert themselves and it won’t affect their class standing.  Just be informed and have a plan, and you might be surprised how easy the rest of it is.

Updated 9/13/19

A special note for SpEd parents:  Once your child hits 9th grade, ask the ARD to write into his IEP that graduation will be based on credits and not on EOC results.  They will require him to attempt each one once. Make sure the IEP says only one attempt.  Because the TEA insists on grading refused assessments, your child can meet the “attempt” requirement simply by turning in his blank assessment.  He will be permitted to graduate with a foundation level diploma.

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Categories
STAAR | EOC Testing

STAAR Madness: TEA or Local Decisions

This is a tough time for Opt Out parents because the assessment is happening and there is a lot of pushback. When complaints come, the natural response is to blame the TEA.  But is that fair?  Is that accurate?  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.  There are many things I have seen excused as TEA “requirements” that just aren’t.

NOBODY requires schools to lie to parents about consequences.
NOBODY requires schools to benchmark, practice assess and otherwise do full or mini-assessments as prep for STAAR multiple times a semester.
NOBODY requires schools to go beyond the instructions and add restrictions on to the students (like requiring them to sit for four hours after finishing/refusing assessment),
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 if 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 tell students they can’t talk to their parents about STAAR.
NOBODY requires students to eat sack lunches at their desk on STAAR days.
NOBODY requires schools to keep non-testing kids inside and ban recess on STAAR days.

and

NOBODY requires schools to offer even a single make up day for STAAR, much less a two week window!!!

These are all local decisions and it is not off limits to talk about. We opt out because we want you to have the freedom to teach. But we expect local districts to do what they can (and that’s a lot) to make sure that it does not make the STAAR environment worse than it already is. 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.

 

Categories
English Language Learners | ELL Section 504 | Special Education STAAR | EOC Testing

Real STAAR Tips: How “Hustle Mom” Comes Up Short

Dallas area blogger “Hustle Mom” aka Dawn Monroe has come up with a handy dandy list of tips for parents to help their kids excel on STAAR, and at the same time makes a gratuitous (or not) plug for family-centered McDonalds.

Despite apparently recognizing that “[t]eachers and students prepare for this test all year long, and the stress it often brings is enough to fill the entire state,” Hustle Mom wants to make sure you eek out those last extra points on STAAR.  She gives handy tips like study old STAAR assessments and don’t stress your kid out. Great tips, but it’s just a start.  Here’s my comment to Hustle Mom, which I am going to guess she won’t approve for posting on her blog.

This list is a great start, but let me add a few other suggestions to really make sure your kid does great on STAAR.

#1. Start working an extra job or increase your employability. Since STAAR results have shown to most closely align with the socio-economic status of the family, you can really give your kid a boost by bringing home a little more bacon each week.  See generally “The Widening Income Achievement Gap

#2. Don’t waste time reading books with your kid. STAAR only tests “close reading” of very brief passages. So rather than waste valuable parent-child time bonding over bedtime stories, or encouraging your child to engage his mind and imagination with juvenile fiction, try to vary each night 3-6 paragraph selections of non-fiction and fiction, and come up with your own multiple choice questions. Fun for the whole family!

#3. Practice bubbling. We all know that most employers are insistent on knowing how you did on your elementary level standardized assessments. I keep my results laminated in my wallet, don’t you? Since stray marks can count against kids, it’s time to put away coloring books or the watercolor set and really focus on fully darkening ovals, but not going outside the lines! Let’s face it. Isn’t competitiveness in today’s world marked by not going outside the lines?

#4. Learn not to be dyslexic (or a non-native speaker). If your child is really serious about STAAR success, some extra sacrifice may be required. Since the failure rates of students with learning disabilities and English language learners are exponentially higher than general ed students, if your kid is one of those unlucky ones, work really hard with them to not be dyslexic or to grow up speaking only English. Sure they take the same assessment as anyone else, but the TEA gives them special accommodations. Mind you the research shows that those accommodations only help general ed students not their target group. LOL! Man, the STAAR is full of irony. So if you really want your kid to do well, make sure you teach them to stop being dyslexic.

If none of those ideas will work for you, you might just want to Opt Out and enjoy life during the STAAR days!