SUCCESS! Unreasonable District Suddenly Gets Reasonable!
Sorry for the length! You asked for responses and details…
We live in Northwest ISD. We have kids at PVE and CTMS. We’ve lived in the district 7 years, but homeschool off and on as we see fit. All the while following the Texans Take Actions Against STAAR facebook page and preparing ourselves. This is our first year having to deal with STAAR “opt out”… We had very high hopes of easy cooperation from the schools, but that was not the case. After sending our tailored opt-out letters from TXEdRights.net to each of our kids’ teachers/principals, we were replied to by the assistant principals from each school with their own form letter provided by the district. We replied with the Step 2: response letter from TXEdRights.net along with some of our own choice words. At this point, PVE quit responding, but not CTMS. The AP replied back, doubling down on their stance and “explained the consequences for students who refuse to take the required exams.” ending with “I have shared these requirements with you so you can make an informed decision for your family. I hope you will reconsider your position and allow your children an opportunity to take the required exams.” We REALLY didn’t appreciate the implication that we are uninformed or attempts at intimidation with threats of consequences. You can see our reply in the screenshot below:
She replied back again saying “I have heard your concerns.” and the school district has no choice and laying out again the consequences we will face if we follow through. It was getting very annoying feeling like we were dealing with a brick wall who could do nothing but repeat back the same talking points and not process new information given to them, but we tried again. We attached the Julie Cole emails and pointed out that she clarified students are not even required to be presented the assessment. We ended with: “We see 3 viable options proceeding forward:
1. You honor our parental rights and concede our children will not be presented with the STAAR.
2. Our children are absent on the initial administration day. You refuse to acknowledge our rights and try to present it to them upon their return. They will tab through to the end, submit a blank assessment, and return to class to continue learning.
3. We pull our children from school altogether and continue homeschooling, as we have for the majority of their schooling careers, and you miss out on that funding that is tied to them.
Under no option, will our children answer a single STAAR question or be subjected to a single hour of Accelerated Instruction, (but that is a disagreement we will settle when the time comes to not convolute the matter at hand).”
At this point she quit replying to us. Finally, weeks later my husband approached the head principal at Open House night and was told to take it up with a contact at the district. He emailed us her information. So we emailed her CC-ing each school’s principal & assistant principal. By this point our patience was very thin and we weren’t up for starting another pointless back and forth so we went all in upfront.
We gave her our background and followed with: “We cannot overstate how disappointed we have been since we notified both of the schools our children attend that they will not be taking the STAAR and the response we have gotten from each: identical responses that are obviously coming from someone other than the individual principals we are dealing with.
I know you don’t know our children so I’ll share a little about them. Two are in GT/GATES. The other is not, not because she doesn’t qualify, but she has always refused assessment. She’s just not interested in that particular pursuit. They all perform extremely well on the MAP assessment and it even predicts they will score “Masters” on the STAAR. Sadly, we know this only further incentivizes your stance as you see that purely as a bolster to the district’s performance level/grade. Our disagreement with the STAAR is multifaceted and not JUST about our children personally, but also about the overall injustice of the entire state assessment system.
We have been encouraged in the past when the district itself spoke out against the STAAR accountability system on the Facebook page and pointed out our kids’ are more than just one score. Again, how disappointed we’ve been to find you’ve decided to cave and just fall in line. We know the law/TEA has stated “you cannot opt out of a test”. We also know the STAAR is NOT a test. It is an assessment. We know schools are required to give each student an opportunity to take it. We are not “opting out”. We are informing you of our intent to refuse. We also know Julie Cole (from the TEA) has clarified and given instructions on how to handle such circumstances and sadly that has not been the case of our interactions with the schools. Attached we will include the emails from Julie Cole, just in case that is news to you, and also a form from another ISD that is a MUCH better way to handle this situation than what we’ve been met with.
We, as a society, are always encouraging and teaching the generations, starting with the books for small children saying: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” and “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.” We intend to do more than just repeat these quotes, but show our children by example that change takes action, even if it’s uncomfortable. We realize the system is set up against not only the kids, but the teachers and districts as well. We are not trying to fight you, but rather fight for you. It was very discouraging, but not defeating, to be met with the response we’ve gotten. Maybe you were unaware of Julie Cole’s instructions. Maybe you didn’t know you could create a form to facilitate parents with our beliefs. Now you do. In the words of Maya Angelou, “When you know better, you do better.” We look forward to being worked with on this matter going forward, instead of being fed misinformation, attempts at intimidation, and being dictated to.
We are also aware that HB4545 requires the schools to offer 30 hours of AI to students who do not score well enough on STAAR. We are also aware of our rights on this and seeing as our children are in no way underperforming in their classes and will never take STAAR, they will be in no need of AI and we will be refusing that as well. We would appreciate your immediate cooperation on this without a back and forth fight. This is the hill we have come to die on.”
She replied: “Thank you for reaching out to us and advocating for your children. We at Northwest ISD must follow the state and federal laws and policies regarding testing and assessment. If your children attend school on a testing day, they will be in a classroom with other students that are testing on that day. The teacher will read the directions to the class. If your children do not take the test, the teacher will verify with your child that they are not taking the test. We will submit the blank test as “S” for scorable, as Ms. Cole explained in the emails. Your children can quietly read a book for the remainder of the testing period.”
FINALLY a little respect and reason. We followed up “Thank you for your prompt response. Should our children attend on the administration days that will be an acceptable handling of the situation.
Most likely we will keep them home as we feel they can have a more educationally enriched day outside of the assessment environment rather than being forced to sit in silence for hours. When they return to school the following day, we see no reason for them to even be presented the assessment at that point. As Julie Cole states, that is unnecessary. We expect our numerous emails on the topic sufficient for the local documentation required, and they will be allowed to go directly to class and not be pulled from instruction. Can we get confirmation this will be the case? Again, thank you so much for your help in this matter.”
Getting her reply: “On a make-up day, the CTCs will verify with your children that they are not testing. The blank test will be submitted with an “S” score for scorable. Your student will then go to class. The entire process will take under 5 minutes.” We verified this with each campus.
We tried to continue the fight and ensure a better response for us and others in the future, but the district representative did not reply to our email regarding that. For now we are taking our win and so grateful for all the help of Scott and everyone else behind the scenes at TXEDRIGHTS and Texans Take Action Against STAAR!
Eric & Sarah J