How to Opt Out/Decline/Refuse STAAR
In response to a lot of “how do I do this” questions, we’ve put together this step by step guide on opting out. This is a general guide of the various steps and forms a parent can follow to Opt Out of the STAAR assessment. If you are looking for an easy, non-confrontational approach, we can’t offer you that. Schools have been instructed to state that they can’t permit it. Some schools go further and falsely claim that state or federal law requires all students to take the STAAR assessments. Others even make implicit or overt threats to parents. So while all of our forms and letters are polite and civil, it is the rare school district that will work with you. As Peggy Robertson of United Opt Out said, opting out is, at its heart, an act of civil disobedience. So join the hundreds and thousands of parents locally, statewide and nationally who are standing up and speaking out against the standardization of our children’s education.
Inform the school that you intend to opt out of the assessment. You are not asking them to let you. You are telling them your decision. You can use the Master Opt Out letter, and customize it to your needs.
A lot of parents have asked whether you must tell the school. If you simply intend to refuse the assessment, you do not. However, if you want to preserve the argument that Texas law permits you to Opt Out, you must give notice as described in the Opt Out letters. We also encourage notice so that the school understands that the assessment system is being protested by the parents.
You will receive a response from the school telling you they can’t permit it. At that time you can send either the response letter (if they are citing legalities) or a follow up refusal letter (if they simply say they can’t allow it).
At this point, unless the school relents, you will need to make a decision. Either (A) Keep your child home on STAAR days or (B) instruct them to write refused on the test booklet and answer sheet, and to make no other marks. (Kids taking the computer administration should be instructed to page to the end, submit it and confirm their submission). If you choose (B) be aware the some schools have told children during testing that their parents just called and said it was OK to take the assessment. If you go this route, create a password that the child must hear before they take the assessment. If the teacher can’t repeat it, the child doesn’t take the assessment.
If you choose (A), you must be aware of not only the test days, but the full testing window. Schools may assess students after the main STAAR administration day as long as it is within the window. Testing windows may be found here.
Some school districts have permitted children to return to class on makeup days without being assessed. They have required that the child and parent come together to the office before school and write “refused” on the assessment. This is a common sense approach to a refusal to test. It keeps the child in class, minimizes absences and meets their requirements. You can request Return to Class on Makeup Days using this letter.
Note for 2020-2021: The TEA has expanded online testing windows to five weeks, which makes staying home almost impossible unless you choose to withdraw your student. On the positive side, for virtual learners, the TEA has decreed that the student must come to campus to be assessed, so as a parent, you can simply keep them home. They will also be score O for other instead of A for absent if this happens. Not a big deal practically, but it does give us a tool to measure opt outs this spring!
Some districts want to be punitive. They will threaten truancy charges or send notices about truancy. You should not ignore this. Rather, inform the school that you have engaged in a home school program on the dates of absence. Let them know that your program included reading, writing, social studies, science and citizenship. Once you have done that, you will have laid the foundation for a defense of truancy charges. It is likely that the school district will not proceed further at that point. For more information on Dual Enrollment Home Schooling, read this.
Update for 2017: The following addition from 2016 holds true. We have had no reports of any truancy related charges from opt out parents in 2016. >>> Update for 2016: Truancy laws have changed. The threat is no longer as great as it once was, although it has not entirely disappeared. In particular, the three day in four week provision, which was used to intimidate parents who held their kids out for a full testing window, has been removed! This is great news. An unvetted comparison of the old law and the new law is here.
This step used to talk about how 5th and 8th grade parents had to fight threats of retention. Great news! Promotion is not dependent on STAAR results in ANY GRADE! There is a recent change in the law which requires schools to provide 30 hours of tutoring (in a 3:1 ratio) for each STAAR assessment not passed. (HB 4545). Parents can opt out of this (see letter) and schools are not permitted to remove a child from foundation or enrichment curriculum to tutor them (i.e. no loss of electives!). Review schools forms and enrollment documents carefully. NEVER waive the 3:1 tutoring ratio unless it is part of an agreement that you are satisfied with to minimize or eliminate tutoring. Never sign it as part of general enrollment documents.
If your child either refuses to complete the assessment on an administration day or if they refuse on a makeup day, you should use the FERPA corrective letter to ask to have the scored assessment removed from your child’s educational records at both the state and local level. The TEA will still score the assessment, and your request will almost certainly be denied, but you can demand your letter be included in his academic file. For the more confrontational of you, you can also ask the district attorney to investigate the falsification of data that accompanies the scoring of refused assessments. (See this article). THIS SHOULD ONLY BE DONE AFTER YOU RECEIVE SCORE REPORTS.
Report back! We want to hear about any districts that act in a bad manner towards opt out parents. We also want to hear any stories of schools that are understanding and work with you! Use our contact form to let us know how it goes!