Tag: graduation

Ignorance or Deliberate Lies? Schools and Sub Assessments

When the Texas legislature imposed EOC graduation requirements on Texas students, they threw out a very important bone that Opt Out parents utilize to their advantage: the right to use substitute assessments to satisfy graduation requirements.  This is a legislative determination and can’t be restricted by local schools or the TEA.  The TEA is charged with making rules to determine qualifying assessments and scores and the process (consistent with the statute) to use them.

In fall 2019, the TEA proposed a rule that would have required a student to sit for and fail an EOC examination before using a substitute assessment to meet graduation requirements.  Long story short, the rule was an ill advised attempt to address the federal Dept. of Education decision to no longer accept substitute assessments as meeting the federal assessment requirements.  Of course, this has nothing to do with graduation, but the TEA thought by requiring the EOC before approving a substitute assessment for graduation, they would increase EOC participation.

We immediately fought back against the rule, because it dangerously conflated federal accountability requirements (that have never been tied to state graduation policies) with our own state law graduation requirements which expressly allow the use of substitute assessments.  Based on TPERN’s call to action, parents, teachers and other activists flooded the TEA with comments against the rule.  Most obviously, we pointed out that there is no need to restrict graduation access based on EOC attempts just to meet federal accountability.  The proposed rule already said that a student who uses a sub assessment to graduate must still take the EOC for accountability purposes.  There was no need to add a hammer by saying “and if you don’t you can’t graduate.”

When this was announced, we were up against the wall.  The TEA had already started telling districts that this would be the rule and training them to enforce it.  We immediately told parents to submit all qualifying sub assessment scores before the rule went into effect.  That drove the districts crazy.  They actually thought they could deny complying with the current law on the basis that it would change in the future.  It was like talking to children who had never taken a civics class.  We wrote nasty letters.  We ended up getting school district lawyers writing us letters telling us not to contact their counselors!  We responded of course that their counselors should not give false information if they did not want to be contacted.  It was a done deal we were told over and over.  But the letters our members sent got their attention.

A public hearing was held and several parents testified making these same points.  Nobody showed up to defend the test first requirement.  And when the new rule was published, the TEA agreed with us!  They struck the language from the rule that said a student must attempt the EOC before being eligible to use a substitute assessment to meet graduation requirements.

Note where this language appears.  This is the section of Commissioner’s Rule 100.4002, which sets out when a student is eligible to use a substitute assessment to satisfy EOC graduation requirements.  They removed the language that says the student had to take the EOC at least once to be eligible.  That’s gone.  And no other language anywhere in the rule is tied to eligibility to use the sub assessment to satisfy graduation requirements.  Everything else has to do with federal accountability, which is completely unrelated to state level graduation requirements.  The rule on eligibility is unchanged from prior years.

(Source:  http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/rules/tac/chapter101/ch101dd.html)

The removal of the prior attempt requirement was no mistake.  The TEA recognized that they could simply ask sub assessment students to take the EOC for accountability reasons only regardless of the acceptance of the sub assessment for graduation purposes.  They explicitly agreed that there was no need to add a prior attempt requirement when a different part of the rule (related to accountability not graduation) provided a means to assess students who have already met their graduation requirements by substitute assessment.

Source: https://tea.texas.gov/sites/default/files/20_02_101-4002.pdf

Not clear enough?  In the section titled Reasoned Justification, this same adoption document is explicit:

The subsection that would have “require[d] students to take an EOC assessment  . . .  prior to being eligible to use a substitute assessment to meet graduation purposes” was “removed at adoption” because it was “not needed.”  Simple enough, right?  The TEA agreed with the parents, dropped the rule change and told the schools to handle accountability on the back end by giving the EOC to everyone, but that using substitute assessment for graduation was pretty much unchanged.  What could be difficult about that?

Well as it turns out, almost everything.  Because the TEA had spent much of the fall preparing districts for the new requirements (you know, the ones that were removed), the districts simply did not believe they had really gone away.  Almost immediately, they began to deny acceptance of substitute assessments on the baseless ground that the student had to first sit for the EOC.

This situation was aggravated by the fact that the TEA failed to update it’s slide show on the new rule even after the amendments were made.  We pointed that out to the TEA and they corrected that omission.
Note what is also clearly stated in this email.  “[S]tudents are NOT required to take a STAAR EOC assessment prior to using a substitute assessment to fulfill graduation requirements. That requirement was removed from the rule during rulemaking.”  This clear statement expresses precisely what happened with the rule and the current state.  Unfortunately, this kind of clear information is foreign to the TEA in its official communications.

Schools continued to insist that the proposed, rejected and outdated version of the rule was in force.  There never was any such rule, there was only a failed proposal.

To address this, the TEA issued a “clarification” to the schools.  While the clarification accurately states that “Based on public comment, the proposed requirement to take an EOC assessment prior to using a substitute assessment for graduation purposes was removed,” it does not state the obvious corollary: “students are NOT required to take a STAAR EOC assessment prior to using a substitute assessment to fulfill graduation requirements.”  So many schools continued to insist that such a requirement existed.  Some even said “still” existed, though no such requirement ever existed before, during or after rulemaking.  It was proposed; it was rejected; it doesn’t exist and never did exist.

So the confusion continued.  Just days after the clarification, we see this:Again, a lack of clear direction led to an inability of the district to understand that graduation purposes and accountability requirements are decoupled.  They always have been in Texas.  They never were linked.  They just both used the same assessments to get to their end points.  To her credit, Julie Cole at the TEA has been absolutely clear with districts that using substitute assessments for graduation is not related to taking the EOC for accountability.  But still, the misinformation continues:
Why do schools continue to mislead parents about substitute assessment requirements?  On the one hand, a large amount of blame lies with the TEA for training schools on a proposed rule that was ultimately not adopted.  When the rule was actually adopted without the proposed change, there was no fireworks show on a level of the initial rollout to alert schools to the actual form of the adopted rule.  So many just continued to use the process that was presented in the initial training.  A clarification that did not use the same clear language that the TEA uses in emails did not help.  However, at the same time, there is some amount of willful ignorance at play.  Schools have always made claims about “requirements” and absolutes of STAAR if they felt it would motivate students to participate and try hard.  Telling them they have to attempt STAAR first is just another instance of this. Some district even overtly lie and throw this nonexistent requirement onto their website.  I’m looking at you Katy ISD – an embarrassment of a district that has been wedded to data obsession since the pathetic tenure of TEA-sycophant, Dr. Allison Matney.  I’m looking at you Pine Tree ISD – spreading false information 9 months after the TEA clarification!  And I am especially looking at you Round Rock ISD – for telling your parents and students the precise opposite of what the law and the TEA says.  This deserves a special view:

RRISD Website:

TEA Clarification:
Julie Cole’s Clear Language:
If a district has any doubts, ask Julie and she will tell them straight:
So how and why do sophisticated districts continue to get it wrong?  Why am I so hard on RRISD especially? Because they prove my point that this isn’t confusion or innocent error.  This is deliberate misinformation.  Over the course of two years, I brought this error to the attention of the General Counsel of the Round Rock ISD after she had “forbidden” me from contacting their counselors directly.  On the phone she acknowledged the effect of the rulemaking, but she steadfastly refused to do so in writing or to make any effort to change the misinformation on the district website.  In fact, she never even responded to this March 2021 email – over a year after the TEA clarified its position and she and I had a verbal agreement on the matter.

Read the Letter to RRISD!

So, no, schools don’t innocently get this wrong.  Not after two years and numerous corrections.  The lies are deliberate and they are designed to do one thing: prevent parents and students from exercising their statutory rights to use substitute assessments to meet graduation requirements.  If your district does this please report it to us and to Julie Cole at the TEA.

What do we propose that parents do when they have a qualifying substitute assessment score?

  1. Upon receiving a satisfactory substitute assessment score, submit it to the counselor with documentation of the score and a statement like this:  [Name of Student] wishes to use this Substitute Assessment score to satisfy the EOC graduation requirements for [Name of Course].  Please let me know if you require any additional information to document this score.  If not, please reply and acknowledge that [Name of Student] has satisfied the graduation assessment requirements for [Name of Course].  This substitute assessment is offered for graduation purposes only.”
  2. If they request further documentation, provide it with the same request for confirmation.
  3. If they talk about the accountability requirements, respond with something along these lines: “We are aware of the Commissioner’s rules regarding EOC assessment for accountability purposes.  The question we asked, though, was for graduation purposes only.  Please confirm that [Name of Student] has satisfied the graduation assessment requirements for [Name of Course].  Once we have received this confirmation, we will be prepared to discuss any accountability requirements that TEA imposes on the school.”  Then you have to stand firm.  Many schools say they will not confirm this until the student takes the EOC for accountability purposes.  Parents cannot give into this, as this is simply the school trying to make the rule read like it was proposed, not as it was adopted.  They must give you an answer on the graduation requirements.  File a grievance if they don’t (BE TIMELY!) and do not sit for the assessment until they do.
  4. If they confirm graduation requirements, you can then do as you wish on the EOC for accountability purposes.  The TEA is clear that a student showing up and refusing meets all accountability requirements.  Do that if you wish.  Or, since it is no longer high stakes, take it if you wish.  Or, since accountability is not your concern, but the school’s, be absent if you like.  Either way you go, the key is to have the graduation requirement confirmed before having any involvement with the accountability issue.
  5. Report any districts attempting to impose a prior EOC attempt requirement on the use of substitute assessment to us here at TPERN and to Julie Cole at the TEA!

 

 

 

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.

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.

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

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

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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Jerk of the Week – Drew Scheberle, Austin Chamber of Commerce VP


The Jerk of the Week award is not given out every week. It’s only given out when someone engages in particularly jerky behavior. Our winner this week is none of than Austin Chamber of Commerce vice president (sorry, SENIOR vice-president) Drew Scheberle. Young Mr. Scheberle is quite the accomplished scholar. Growing up in the affluent Northern Virginia suburbs, Mr. Scheberle attended James Madison High School in Vienna, VA. James Madison is currently an 80% white/Asian-American school; presumably it was even whiter back in the 90s. Even today it’s Hispanic population is only 11% with African-Americans comprising 2% of the student body. Less than 6% of its students receive ELL services. Obviously, he is personally acquainted with the challenges facing Texas high schools. Following what we can only presume was a stellar high school career, Scheberle attended the private Trinity University (current tuition $36,000 per year). Here his exposure to African American students would have risen 50%, since they comprise 3% of Trinity’s student body.

Mr. Scheberle has earned this award for his testimony before the Senate Education Committee in opposition of SB 463, which would make permanent the extremely popular and successful implementation of Individual Graduation Committees that were created on a temporary basis by the 2015 legislature. Individual Graduation Committees let students who have passed 3 of 5 End of Course STAAR exams be reviewed on an individual basis for graduation with their class. These students must, at a minimum, have earned all the credits in the classroom that are required for graduation. A variety of factors are required to be considered and either a project or portfolio of work must be part of the process. Of course the Austin Chamber and the Texas Association of Business both opposed SB 149 in 2015, claiming it would lead to what they termed “social graduation,” playing on overstated fears of “social promotion.” Over the last two years, the data shows that nothing of the sort has happened. Rather, students are individually reviewed and carefully screened for readiness for graduation. Only about 2/3 of students reviewed are actually approved for graduation.

Believing it his duty to advocate for more test bubbling proficiency for graduation (a real world skill notably absent from any job requirements at any Chamber member we could find), Scheberle rose to the challenge! “Continuing to lower the bar is not helping,” said Drew Scheberle, vice president at the Austin Chamber of Commerce. “There are always going to be students who are right on the margin.” (Texas Tribune Article) .Now, it might be too easy to point out that a law that keeps the bar exactly where it is can’t really be said to be “lowering” the bar, but Scheberle was all in. Challenged by Sen. Kel Seliger, the author of SB 463, Scheberle was asked if he could support “the graduation of a student in Flower Mound who failed to pass one required [EOC exam] in social studies?” Snootily raising his Trinity-educated nose, Scheberle scoffed that “I would give her a GED if she earned it.” Bad idea, Drewski, bad idea. Sen. Seliger wasn’t speaking in hypotheticals. He was speaking on an actual FMHS student who graduated by IGC and now maintains a 3.6 GPA at Oklahoma Christian University. And he could have been speaking of any of the thousands of IGC graduates now making their futures in universities, community colleges, trade schools and the military, thanks to IGC process.  For many students who are English Language Learners, suffer from learning disabilities or medical impediments (and some who are just bad test-takers but perfectly proficient in the classroom), the IGC process is their only road to a diploma.  But for Country Club Drew, their worth and ability is only definable in terms of test bubbles.

For this amazing show of arrogance, snobbery and general jackassery, we congratulate Drew Scheberle, TPERN’s Jerk of the Week.