I have 3 children. My opt out began in 2019. Why? Because my oldest (in 4th grade) had developed acute cerebella ataxia. Although at the time we didn’t know it. Took us months to find the right neurologist to diagnose him. (From a strep infection, no less). This made his brain not function well. He couldn’t stand up without losing his balance, dizzy all the time, couldn’t concentrate, had a hard time comprehending instruction, multitasking, etc. Loud noises and brightness were hard on him. School became a difficult time for a once very healthy kid.
We decided to place him in a Medical 504, with the urging of his neurologist. Who happened to tell us Jacob doesn’t have to take STAAR. (Dr. Josh Rotenberg). He did not tell me about your group, just said he doesn’t have to take it.
I decided to do some research. We successfully opted him out in 2019. Briargrove Elementary, HISD.
I know in 2020 it was an option, but we still opted out him and his brother, Zachary, who was in 3rd grade and now supposed to take STAAR. Neither child did. (5th grade & 4th grade). Also, their teacher, Ms. Nicole McDonald, 4th grade is awesome. She has had both my boys now and ready. By this time (2020), I had found this group on Facebook. I watched, I read, I followed.
2021, my oldest is now at Tanglewood Middle School (HISD) for 6th grade and I thought I would get push back. I turned in the letter available from this group. School had no issues. We made a plan for where Jacob would go during testing, and he could still attend. (Due to his ataxia, he does miss some school and I would not let the school have me keep him home. There’s plenty of schoolwork he can do on campus). I made sure to send the letter to the Dean of Innovation (school broken into 2 groups), cc’d each subject teacher, the school counselor (I think she wears many hats, ie testing coordinator??), and the principal. I was not going to have a staff member say, “we didn’t know”. Tanglewood was very respectful and did not push back once.
2021, my middle, Zachary had Ms. McDonald, 4th grade, and she was patiently waiting for my letter. (Briargrove Ele. -HISD). I also sent the testing coordinator, each subject teacher, principal and vice principal my letter.
*side note* between 2020-2021 we had Zachary tested for dyslexia from a previous teacher reaching out to us and recommend it. He was placed on a 504 for Dyslexia.
2020-2021, my daughter, Lauren is now in 3rd grade. I sent the same letter to her teacher and the same players as Zachary, a different teacher though. No push back here.
I was also approached for HB4545 for Zachary (2020/2021: can’t remember exact year). Let me tell you, Mrs. Berlin (Briargrove) was very sneaky about this: all sweet and innocent stating it will help him in the areas he needs help in. Thankfully I took it home and read and reread it. Right about the time this page was talking about it. Finding information from this page, I said absolutely not. Then made sure the 3:1 teacher ratio was clicked. (It was not and I changed it immediately for all 3 of my kids).
2021-2022, bad year for Zachary at school with teachers not cooperating in his 504 accommodations and not taking what I explained to them to heart (ie, how kid operates, what motivates him, etc.). I’m fighting to advocate for him. I made formal complaints.
But I was still able to successfully opt him out. Same letter, dated for that year and all the same players.
Lauren gets to 4th grade and she has Ms. McDonald. We LOVE her! She reached out to check if we are opting Lauren out and I said yes, she said “I’ll wait for your letter”.
So, for all my kids, I have sent the same letter you guys provide with all the legal verbiage. I change according to year and kid. I also make sure I send HB4545 for each of them at the beginning of the year. This year, for my 5th grader, the new testing coordinator requested that I fill out a form for STAAR opt out, which I posted on Texans Against STAAR asking for some advice as the letter was not all correct. I crossed out the points that were not correct and initialed that and signed the letter along with requesting them to make sure a copy of the Opt Out Letter I sent it to be placed in her school file.
I have not had any push back for practice/interim assessments. All three of my kids go to school on those days and we have a plan in place. To work on school items or read or something that is quiet and constructive. They all are placed in a conference room with a staff member checking on them. (I do this because the 2021-2022 school year, my 5th grader and4th grader were placed in the hallway during the entire assessment time and when I found out, I let the school have it, politely of course, but placing kids in a hallway with no one around for 4 hours is unacceptable in my books. So now, I make sure they have a comfortable place to be other than a hallway).
Now, next year I will have high school to worry about so I am saving and reading all I can from this website. I cannot thank all of you enough for this. On the note of high school, my son was able to get into Westside High School Engineering program with his Matrix score (over 900) WITHOUT the STAAR scores. It goes to show you, it is not valid. (Even when I spoke to Lamar High Scholl and Westside, I asked about the STAAR and explained to them that my children do not take it and how do I make sure he has a chance for a seat? They both told me, they will go by Matrix and the 7th grade year report card).
This is my success story. (I have 2 kids on a 504 and one GT and they do not take STAAR). I am respectful, polite, yet firm and I don’t back down. It is due to this group that I gained the confidence to stand my ground and advocate for my children. It was very nerve wracking at first but once I turned in the first letter and the school understood I was not going to budge, I did not receive any push back.