We have received two reports of parents in the Midland ISD being threatened with retention of their child if they follow through on their opt out plans. These students are not in 5th or 8th grade. As a result, state law does not require passage of the STAAR for promotion to the next grade level. In fact, after receiving these reports TPERN investigated the local board policies for Midland ISD. Midland ISD policy EIE (Local) is clear:
In grades 1–8, promotion to the next grade level shall be based on an overall average of 70 on a scale of 100 based on course-level, grade-level standards (essential knowledge and skills) for English/language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies.
In other words, if you pass your core classes, you get promoted. Period. Other parts of the policy make it clear that Grade Level Advancement contingent on STAAR passage applies only to 5th and 8th grade students. So why the threats? First, some administrators believe parents are too stupid or too passive to push back against a threat to their child, even when that threat would require the school to ignore its own policies. Second, the TEA and school district attorneys are warning districts that 2015 could see massive increases in Opt Out numbers. Rather than address the underlying issue, or seek reconciliation with district parents and taxpayers, the path of confrontation, threats and intimidation is being recommended to school districts. Clearly, school district lawyers will benefit from this by generating more work and legal fees. The reason for their recommendation is bathed in self-interest. It is less clear why a school district led by elected trustees would feel fighting and threatening your constituents — to the extent of stating that the district will ignore its own policies — is good stewardship.
Parents looking to opt out of STAAR assessment should be prepared to critically examine every reason, excuse or threat given by the school district. In particular please report any threats to retain students using our Incident Report form. In many cases, the schools simply parrot the self-interested advice given to them by the TEA or their attorneys. As seen by the Midland ISD example, these threats are often false and hollow. What a sad state of affairs that lying and threatening parents and kids for data collection is seen as acceptable behavior. But what a powerful testimony to the real strength of the opt out movement. Stand your ground. Change is coming!