Tag: cvep

The CVEP Interview – The Oaks Private School

For years, we have promoted the CVEP (Credit Verification and Evaluation Program) as a proactive way for parents to plan for high school graduation without STAAR.  The CVEP program permits the student to attend and participate in all their local high school activities without ever taking STAAR.  After completing their credits, the student then “transfers” the credits to The Oaks Private School (TOPS), and after completing a short course, they receive their accredited diploma.  Texas parents have used this process to complete their high school diplomas and even to meet military enlistment requirements.  The program is legitimate and the school is regionally accredited.

The two questions we get the most are (a) can I still graduate with my local high school and (b) how much does it cost.  Graduation participation depends on your local school policies.  If they permit students who have completed all graduation requirements other than state assessments to participate in graduation, then your student likely can participate also.  If they don’t you will have to forego the local ceremony.  Please note, a ceremony  is not graduation, it is only a ritual.  It should also be noted that your local school board can change this policy, so parents should actively lobby their district to permit all students who have completed credits to participate in graduation.  For your local school’s policies, check Board Policy FMH (Local) (See example for Georgetown ISD).  As to the cost, the CVEP program is exceedingly affordable.  If paid in full, the cost is only $450.  TOPS also has payment options, and if utilized the final cost is $500.

In this interview, the principal of The Oaks Private School, Marilyn Bennett, joins us to discuss the CVEP program.  Please note, Marilyn’s opinions are her own.  We do not share the belief that students/parents should participate in or attempt the STAAR EOCs because of the punitive and discriminatory use of the results.  However, we fully support CVEP and the excellent people at TOPS.  Please note, parents looking for an online, private option for a full, accredited at home curriculum may also wish to visit with Marilyn about their full time enrollment programs.

Enjoy the interview, and please consider supporting us on Patreon if you find the information helpful!

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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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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