Following in the footsteps of Houston ISD, which hastily admitted its error, the Denton Independent School District has started sending notices to parents of
children who did not pass the 5th grade STAAR reading informing those parents that their children will be required to attend summer school if they do not pass the second administration of STAAR. This “determination” is illegal and void. This notification is of no legal effect. Simply put, under the Education Code, the District lacks the authority to mandate summer school for any student based on STAAR results.
The Education Code is clear. Accelerated instruction, which may be, but does not have to be in the form of summer school, is determined by a Grade Placement Committee composed of the school principal (or his/her designee), the subject area teacher, and the parent. The school district has no power under the Education Code to determine anything.
Section 28.0211(c) of the Texas Education Code provides:
“After a student fails to perform satisfactorily on an assessment instrument a second time, a grade placement committee shall be established to prescribe the accelerated instructionthe district shall provide to the student before the student is administered the assessment instrument the third time. The grade placement committee shall be composed of the principal or the principal’s designee, the student’s parent or guardian, and the teacher of the subject of an assessment instrument on which the student failed to perform satisfactorily.” (emphasis added).
In this case, the second administration has not occurred. The GPC has not even been formed. Yet, Mary Helen Martin, Denton ISD’s Director of Elementary Curriculum, has taken it upon herself to refuse to follow the law. This decision lies in the hands of the local school employees together with the parents. Ms. Martin doesn’t get a vote. Moreover, the Texas Education Agency clearly dictates that Accelerated Instruction should not be a one size fits all “everyone goes to summer school” approach. In the Student Success Initiative Manual, the TEA indicates that accelerated instruction should be individualized to the needs of the individual student.
“Neither the law nor the rules specify the amount of time to be provided for the accelerated instruction. To support the SSI grade-advancement requirements, the law and the commissioner’s rules provide districts and charter schools with flexibility to determine on an individual student basis the appropriate form, content, and timing of the accelerated instruction. The policy governing accelerated instruction is intended to allow districts flexibility to meet individual student needs.” (p. 33).
These types of blanker summer school orders go against everything accelerated instruction is intended to accomplish. Texas Parents’ Education Rights Network calls on Ms. Martin and Denton ISD to issue a corrective letter to parents immediately. These types of legally erroneous letters destroy trust between parents and schools. They are intended to mislead parents into consenting to remediation plans that are not legally required. They are designed to replace the cooperative relationship between parents and local school employees that the legislature envisioned with top down standardized decision making imposed by the district administration on its students.
TPERN attorneys believe that the summer school determination contained within Ms. Martin’s letter to Denton ISD is legally void as it was not prescribe in compliance with the Education Code. Denton ISD must follow the legal process for determining accelerated instruction, which means each child’s parent must be an active partner and participant in the decision making process.