Categories
STAAR | EOC Testing

Preparing for the Two Week Online Window

Updated March 2021

Parents intending to opt out this spring by staying home during the assessment window need to be aware of the expanded window for online administration.  This year, the TEA expanded the window for online administration to two weeks for most STAAR assessments. (Note for 2021: The online window is now FIVE WEEKS).  The paper administration window continues to be one week.  Be aware that if you return your child on the second week, they may be set in front of a computer to complete the STAAR.   The TEA assessment calendar is available here.   We should also note that makeup exams are still a local option.  No school is required to offer any makeups or to offer them for the full period.  If you school decides to end all assessment after the first week, that is entirely within their rights.

Still, to prepare for the possibility of a two week online window, we have the following recommendations:

  1. ARD Parents Should Have Paper Administration Written into the IEP.  By making paper administration the only permissible method of assessment, you can assure your child is going to only have a one week assessment window to deal with.
  2. Work with school on refusal. If your school is willing to work with you, consider asking to refuse (preferably on paper) and return to class on the first makeup day of the assessment window.  Once your child has refused, they cannot administered the assessment in any other form.
  3. If your school does paper administration and won’t agree to facilitate a refusal as suggested above, consider same day refusal. The common refusal technique used by parents is to keep the kids home on the day of assessment and then refuse on a make up day.  This does open the kid up to individual targeting by teachers.  One option to limit this may be to attempt refusal on the first day of the assessment.  Because of the demands of test security and administration, there is much less a school can do if a student refuses in the assessment room.  Is your child capable of sitting there for the assessment and then turning in a blank assessment?  If so, this may be a better option than trying to refuse on a day when fewer students are being assessed
  4. Train Refusal Techniques. If the school is not cooperative, you may have to train your child to refuse.  For some students this is stressful, and it always is a chance for the school to try to force assessment against parental wishes.  If you go this route, I would suggest several strategies.  First, use the card and password system.  Second, inform the administration of your intention and try to obtain promises that they will not interfere.  If they can’t give you that promise, you need to think hard about going with this method.  Engage your district trustees about this issue and your expectation that the schools respect your decisions.

    Appropriate Refusal Techniques

    Paper Administration
    a. Do not bubble anything, write refused on the scoresheet and test booklet
    b. Bubble or more two ovals for each question

    Online Administration
    a. Page through to end and his submit, then confirm your intent to submit the assessment

  5. Withdraw for the entire assessment window. You have an absolute right to withdraw for the assessment period and re-enroll after the assessment window closes.  You can do that with every single assessment opportunity.

TRAPS

  1. Our district doesn’t do online administration. If they have access to the online system, they can still sit a returning student down in front of a computer during the second week.  Do not be lulled into a sense of security by the fact that the normal method of administration is not online.
  2. Bubbling all one answer or random answers or guessing wrong.  Any technique that results in marking one oval per question or submitting one answer per question online will have the effect of producing data that the school can rely on in prescribing accelerated instruction.  It is far easier to argue against this when there is no data, rather than data that could be real, even if it can be explained as being the result of purposeful protest.

Categories
Constitutional STAAR | EOC Testing Testing Irregularity

Was Your Child Forcibly Tested?

We have received a disturbing number of reports of students being forced to complete the makeup STAAR via lies and coercion.  We know that schools are required to offer the assessment to the child, but several reports have come in that the child refused the assessment and was told “you can’t write refused on it.”  Others were told “you have to complete it, it’s the law.”  At least one child was denied the opportunity to ask their mother if it was OK to take it.  Yet another report (second hand) claims that the school told the mother that if she did not tell the child to take the assessment the TEA had instructed them to forcibly take the child to the testing room and make her to the assessment.  It is reported the mother asked the TEA about this and no such instruction was ever given.  Opt out parents who return their children on makeup days are assisting the school by letting them count the refusal as a participation.  It’s wrong of the TEA to do that, but there is absolutely no excuse for certified educators to lie to children and parents just to make a kid give them data.  In almost every one of these instance the school is forcing, tricking or convincing the child to disobey their parents.  Such actions destroy any bond of trust between the parent and the school.

If your child is forcibly tested on make up days against your instructions, and the child attempted to refuse but was not permitted, please do the following:

1. Take a deep breath and relax, we need to focus.

2. Assemble all your e-mails and other communications with the school that preceded the STAAR.

3. Write down your recollection of what you were told verbally, including names, dates, and the precise words as best you recall them before the incident occurred. Then write down everything you remember about what happened and how you learned of this. Note who said what and their emotional state.

4. If your child is OK, have them write down what happened in their own handwriting, or audio or video record them giving their account. Do this as soon as the child is able. Please do not prompt or guide them. Before you start remind them to use names and the exact words people said, including the child. After you have done this, go over it with the child and make notes f any names the child left out or statements they were not clear about. Do not re-video the child and do not have them re-write their account.

5. File an Incident Report form with www.txedrights.net (it is on the website). Please provide all information requested. We will follow up with you after the report is reviewed. Please do not e-mail us video or documents until we request them.

Categories
Homeschooling STAAR | EOC Testing

OPTING OUT – Step by Step

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.

STEP ONE:

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.

 

STEP TWO:

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).

STEP THREE:

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!

STEP FOUR:

If your child either refuses to complete the assessment on an administration day or if they refuse on a makeup day, you need to send a Do Not Score letter (click Here). The TEA will still score the assessment, 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).

STEP FIVE:

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.

STEP SIX:

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.

STEP SEVEN:

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!

Updated 1/12/22