Tag: opt out

HB 1416 Opt Out of AI

Well toss the old HB 4545 letters away!  As we have been discussing, the Texas legislature did a big revamp on HB 4545 accelerated instruction with the HB 1416 amendments.  The most important change was to grant a broader and more explicit opt out right to parents.  After HB 4545, the TEA recognized an opt out right for accelerated instruction.  That right required that a parent have a moral or religious objection to the instruction.

However, because some local districts are sold out to STAAR, there were districts that refused to follow the TEA guidance and attempted to deny parental opt out notices.  In HB 1416, the legislature put an end to that.  They created an opt out right for any parent whose student was scored but did not approach the grade level standards.  That parent can remove their child from AI on written notice.  Period.

In fact it is so simple, we don’t even have a form letter for it.  I recommend two sentences:

Pursuant to 28.0211 (a-9) I elect to remove my child from the accelerated instruction required by 28.0211 (a-1)(2).  Please confirm that he/she has been removed from all accelerated instruction.

That is all the statute requires and a school has no discretion to deny it.  I will note, that due to some confusing wording, the TEA guidance says that if a student was not scored due to absence or testing irregularity, they must first take a BOY screener before opting out under HB 1416.

Also, note that HB 1416 did not alter the prohibition on removing kids from electives to deliver AI.  Schools still are barred from doing that.

A note on strategy:
Sometimes it makes sense to delay giving your opt out notice.  This year we have had a few schools deliver their AI in full class settings.  If a parent opts out, they will say “Oh, no this isn’t an AI class, it’s just for helping students get to grade level on the TEKs.  It has nothing to do with AI or STAAR.  Which of course is a lie.  If you have heard that your school uses full period AI, I suggest not sending your opt out notice until they try to put the kid in a full period prep class.  THEN, you ask, in writing, “so will his time in this class cover his AI hours?” which they will almost certainly immediately confirm as true.  Once you have that confirmation in writing, THEN you give the opt out notice.  Patience can be your friend here.

Telling the Truth – Kudos to Lamar CISD!

During this time of the year, we hear so many terrible stories of teachers and administrators lying to parents and harassing them and sometimes their kids over their opt out decisions.  It’s the worst at the high school level, where the “you can’t graduate without STAAR” lie is yielded like a hammer. (Read here to see all the ways to graduate without passing five STAAR EOCs).  So when we see an administrator tell the truth about graduation — and even offer to sit down with the parent and check where the kid is on an alternative approach — they deserve our appreciation and huge credit.

TPERN gives a huge tip of the cap to Brian Roberson, principal of Terry High School in Lamar CISD, for one of the best written responses to an opt out that we have seen.  Mr. Roberson laid out all the options, fairly, non-judgmentally, and accurately for the parent.  There was no shaming, no threatening and no lying.  He even cribbed some of the response from Houston CVPE, a parent advocacy group that we’ve helped with research on graduation options.

Today’s Parent’s Rights Hero is Principal Brian Roberson.  He showed that schools can communicate accurate information to parents and treat them like true partners in their children’s education.  His letter is below:

From: Brian K. Roberson
Cc: Tracie D. Pryor; Trameasha A. Strickland
Sent: Thursday, April 20, 2023 at 10:02:30 AM CDT
Subject: Re: opt out letter

Good Morning,

I want to acknowledge the receipt of your STAAR Opt-Out Letter for student, ______________.

Additionally, I wanted to advise of the following:

To graduate high school in Texas, a student must pass five STAAR end-of-course (EOC) assessments (Algebra I, Biology, English I, English II, and US History) or use a combination of several exceptions. These include a sufficient score on a substitute assessment; Spring 2020 COVID waiver, Special Education ARD, or IGC for up to two STAAR assessments.

Below are more details about high school STAAR EOC exemptions/waivers:

  • INDIVIDUAL GRADUATION COMMITTEE (IGC) The individual graduation committee (IGC) process allows a student to complete an IGC packet/project instead of STAAR to substitute for two of the five STAAR high school exams. In order to qualify for IGC, you must have failed/attempted STAAR.
  • SUBSTITUTE ASSESSMENT WAIVER: TEA allows students to use a substitute assessment (chart here) instead of taking the STAAR (link here.) You will need to provide your school counselor with a copy of your score. 
    • PSAT, SAT, ACT, AP: Students may use the SAT, PSAT, ACT, or AP substitute assessment to replace the STAAR test to meet graduation requirements and do NOT have to have taken the STAAR to qualify for using it. Schools may pressure you to take the STAAR EOC because the student will not be listed on the federal participation rate (ESSA) if they do not take the STAAR.  This does NOT impact state accountability A-F ratings because the “federal participation rate is not prescribed as an element of a state’s accountability system.” TEA, however, has decided to mark students who refuse the STAAR and never actually take it with a zero score.
    • TSI: The Texas Education Agency allows students enrolled in college preparatory courses to use TSI as a substitute for STAAR Algebra I, English I and English II without ever having to take the STAAR. Otherwise, state law allows a student to use TSI as a substitute assessment for STAAR Algebra I, English I and English II as long as the student has taken/failed STAAR at least twice.
  • COVID SPRING 2020 WAIVERS: High school students who took and earned course credit for a course with a corresponding STAAR EOC assessment in spring or summer 2020 have the exam requirement waived. (TEA Documentation LINK HERE) Students will not be responsible for taking that associated STAAR exam as a graduation requirement as long as they earned course credit.

Example: If a student in 9th grade in spring/summer 2020 passed Algebra I, Biology and English I, they received a waiver for the STAAR in the corresponding courses and are only obligated to only pass English II and US History in order to graduate.

  • Out of state or out of country Course: If the student completed the B part of Algebra I, English I, Biology, English II or US History in another state or country, they will be exempt from taking and passing the STAAR in that subject.
  • SPECIAL EDUCATION Students must attempt or fail STAAR once in order to be able to graduate regardless of whether they passed the STAAR or not. Special Education students who qualify for STAAR Alt 2 ( generally students in an SLL or SLC class) can be exempt from STAAR by the ARD committee.
  • Graduating seniors: If a graduating senior has two or less STAAR exams that they have not passed, they can use IGC instead of taking the STAAR. If a graduating senior has three or more STAAR exams they have not passed, they will need to pass one of the remaining STAAR exams in order to graduate in June.
Please take schedule a moment to meet with me to ensure you are aware of the students graduation requirements.
With Gratitude,

SUCCESS! Twin success in Splendora!

by JPS

🥳 Second year of opting out, first year for a flawless process!! Splendora ISD.

No pushback, a simple call from the principal stating the twins will be offered STAAR but understand they will decline. Assessment will be submitted as S for score, and that is that! Picked my boys up at 9:30 this morning after they were counted present for the day. Quick backstory, one of my boys (pictured left) has an IEP and severely dyslexic along with a few other challenges. My other son is a straight A student (picturesd right). If it wasn’t for my sons disability, I would have never known just how unreasonable STAAR is. Children are not one sized fits all! Keep fighting parents 💪

Next stop, declining HB4545 once offered! 💫

SUCCESS: Success Everywhere with Everything!

From CWade

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.

SUCCESS! In person refusal and out of testing area!

From AG

6th Grade.  Granbury ISD. I sent in our opt out letter last week and received a phone call yesterday from the principal and testing cordinator. They are going to comply with our opt out! I was expecting some pushback, thankfully not! My child will need to refuse on testing day and she will be moved to a non testing area. I call this a win! I also went ahead and sent in our HB4545 refusal so that her electives aren’t taken from her when school starts back in the fall. Another mom in the group got the same response (we’re in the same district if she wants to comment I’ll leave that up to her 💙💜)!

SUCCESS! No Password; No STAAR.

From MMC

They will always tell you it’s “required;” they tried forcing us the first year. I knew my rights, I sent a letter, she did not attend in testing days. When it was make up dates she went in. They handed her the test, she handed it back, they then handed it back to her saying it was not complete. She then handed it back and said “I’m good.” They released her to class.

We had a password set up because they did try to tell her I said for her to just try it. She asked for the password, they didn’t have it. She said I need to go see my mom in the office. Needless to say, they don’t try either of us anymore. Now, she just misses the 2 test days, her principal has it noted, and she never is offered the makeup test. They even called me this year to check to see if she could play what they call “STAAR War” games since they know how I am about STAAR. It was just like group games for review. She played them. But they knew they better confirm with me first.

SUCCESS! Principal Accepts Refusal, Won’t Present Assessment

From CS
I am feeling great! 🎉🎉🎉
– I submitted the opt out letter to the school on Monday.
– I received a generic response letter from the school on Wednesday telling me I couldn’t opt out.
– I then sent the STAAR follow-up refusal letter and by the end of the day today, I received a phone call from the principal informing me that she WOULD NOT present the assessment to my child the day of “testing” or any day after. 🎉
She was very appreciative of the documentation I sent because I also sent copies of the emails from Julie Cole. The principal confirmed that she would submit a blank score for him and he would spend the day with second graders that are not subjected to STAAR. THANK YOU SO MUCH TxEdRights! Because of you, I feel kick ass! 😂 I didn’t ask too many questions on here but instead, followed your step by step instructions and watched your videos! 🙏🏼♥️🙏🏼. My job is not done. I will be following up the day after testing to confirm my child’s score was submitted. Then we will do this every year, to which the principal already seemed to understand. 😃. You can do this parents! Don’t back down!

SUCCESS! School Sends Opt Out Form for Signature

From CG

My son is in 4th grade at Jim Ned Lawn Elementary School (Jim Ned CISD).  I became aware of the possibility of opting out of STAAR when he was at the end of his 3rd grade year.  I dove in doing as much research as I could and joined Texans Take Actions Against STAAR on facebook.  In February 2023, I emailed the first opt out letter to the school including the principal, counselor and all three of his teachers.  A little over a week later I received a telephone call from the school admin office.  I received the standard lecture about how opting out is not an option, he has to take and pass the STAAR to graduate, if he is at school we have to make him take it, you can’t keep him home because the testing window is 17 days and that would put him over his limit of missed school days, his teachers really feel he can pass this with no issues.   I explained that I have no doubt that my child can pass the staar but that has nothing to do with our decision for him not to participate.  I advised her to please put all of this in writing and send it to me and that she was actually incorrect on multiple things she listed and needed to do some research before calling anyone else on this subject.  A few weeks went by and crickets.  I had heard nothing from the school.  So on April 5th I emailed the follow-up opt out letter this time to the same people but including our school superintendent.  A week to the day later I received an email from the principal with an attachment.  The attachment was on school letterhead asking for my signature with information they needed to make sure I “understand” for opting my child out.  the standard you must submit a written request to exclude your child; you understand your child’s test will be marked as “s” which will result in the lowest possible score; performance on staar/eoc assessments are required by TEC;  HB4545 specifies they are required 30 hours of accelerated instruction per subject (I added at the end that it is required the school offers it not that we have to accept); and the score your child will receive as a result of you choosing to exclude them will hurt the campus and district’s state and federal accountability ratings.   I have signed and returned the school’s CYA letter and honestly feel like this wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be.  Staar for our kids start next week and run for the next 17 days.  I fully expect to hear from my child that they didn’t push it.  He has been instructed and we have been preparing daily for him to politely refuse and if anyone gets ugly to call me.  But I’m truly not expecting any issues from this point forward.

SUCCESS! Middle school and high school opt outs facilitated!

From S.B.

Plano ISD
This year, I submitted my refusal letter to my 8th grader’s principal and counselor.. Initially, I received “Received” as a reply from the principal. After a couple of weeks, I emailed again asking his preference on what to do with my child on administration days. He told me to fill out the absence form for the initial administration days and that he would approve it, that way my kid could do any makeup work with no hassles. And, that was it!
For my 10th grader, I emailed the same refusal letter and the counselor called me. She went over what his options were and wanted to make sure I understood the acceptable substitutions. Months later during a 504 meeting, it was outlined that he will not be taking EOCs and will be utilizing subs, instead.

My School Took My Kid’s Elective and Put Them In STAAR Classes!

Despite the clear language of the law, some schools have denied parental opt out from accelerated instruction and placed kids into STAAR prep classes.  After you have submitted your opt out, you must follow up if your child has been denied access to electives.  For that reason, we’ve added a new follow up letter to get those electives back.  This video below will walk you through the letter.