Tag: opt out

Tabbing Through

So it’s opt out time for STAAR.  We’ve already told you that the school is not going to “agree” that you can opt out.  Now that doesn’t mean you can’t opt out.  In fact, some schools play the game of pretending that refusing to participate (your option) is not opting out.  It is.  They don’t get to define words for us.

So what do we know?

We know that the TEA has told schools that they can accept parental refusals and submit a blank assessment without ever putting it in front of the student.  And thankfully, we are seeing more districts than ever working with parents and offering this option.

We know that if the district doesn’t offer that option, the student can refuse in person and either be sent on to class (good job school!) or sit and not engage the assessment (punitive, but as long as they don’t coerce you, it’s OK).

But many parents (and kids) decide that sitting for three or more hours to refuse the assessment is a silly game, and that the best way to successfully opt out is to submit a blank assessment in the testing room.  This is what you will see called “Tabbing Through”.  In this process, the student advances to the next question without answering, dismisses all warnings about missing answers, gets to the end and submits the assessment (without asking for the proctor to review it).  But this raises the question: how do we teach our kids to do this?

Thanks to a wonderful TTAAS Facebook member, we present the video tutorial “Tabbing Through”  Enjoy the video and let’s get out there and opt out. Because it is OUR option, not the school’s.

Why I Opted Out

From the Facebook group Texans Take Action Against STAAR, an opt out kid now at Texas A&M reflects on why she went from Mastering her STAAR assessments to refusing to take them!

Carroll ISD Formally Recognizes Parental Refusal Rights

This is a big one folks!  To be clear: it doesn’t change the law or  TEA positions.  This is simply an almost word for word regurgitation of what the TEA has been permitting for three years now.  It does not break new ground.  It communicates existing guidance and options.  But it is a BIG ONE!

Why is it big?  Because it is in writing, publicly available, and set out in clear, straightforward language.  It is an example of how EVERY DISTRICT IN TEXAS should engage with its parents.  And it comes from a district that ordinarily is a big beneficiary of the STAAR assessment program.  Carroll ISD is a high income, high achieving, suburban school district.  Across the district, campuses are awarded accountability ratings of “A.”  They boast of great quality in public schools. The district has the facilities and resources that many districts can only imagine.  It has active, engaged parents and an engaged school board.  And it just so happens to have a school board president who has had enough of STAAR madness.  After nearly getting a resolution passed to refuse state dictated field testing (the vote failed 3-3), the district decided to face parental pushback on STAAR head on.

So how did they address parents who have concerns over STAAR assessment and want to opt out?  No threats.  No intimidation.  No lies.  Just the plain truth — and they put it right on their website.

Parents may refuse STAAR testing and Accelerated Instruction

This is the opening to the district’s departmental accountability page!  And it is true.  We’ve known it is true for over a decade and for the last three years, the TEA has been telling districts that they don’t have to fight with parents, that they don’t have to threaten parents, that they don’t have to try to trick kids to disobey their parents just to create assessment data.  And while a number of districts have, often after contentious discussions with parents, started to employ this approach, it is still a moving target in many districts.  In part, this is because the TEA has failed to give clear guidance.  Instead of spelling it out like Carroll ISD does, the TEA says things like “the district must offer the child the opportunity to be assessed.  What that looks like may vary district to district.”  The answers are found in various unpublished emails and response logs, only available by public information request. Only when asked directly will the TEA directly tell a district that they don’t have to put an assessment in front of the kid or that they can accept parental refusal and submit the assessment from scoring based only on the parental refusal letter.

But right on the Carroll ISD website is the pure unadulterated truth for parents:

After giving notice (either by email, letter or district created form) the district will honor and respect the parental refusal:

  • Carroll ISD will not present a child with a STAAR assessment on an initial testing day or on a make-up testing day if a parent refusal has been received.
  • Carroll ISD acknowledges the rights of parents to refuse the STAAR and HB1416 on behalf of their child.
  • When a parent refuses STAAR assessments for their child, the child will receive a raw score of zero.
  • STAAR assessment score is not used to promote a child to the next grade level.
  • The zero does not impact your child’s GPA.
  • Carroll ISD is not allowed to encourage refusal of STAAR or of HB1416 Accelerated Instruction.
  • CISD will always support parents in their educational choices for their children.

How different is this approach from many of the district responses we see?  How straightforward is this approach?  No need to threaten, lie or create fake consequences.  And on high school issues, even though the district refusal form is not fully accurate, again, the webpage talks about substitute assessments and links parents to the commissioner’s substitute assessments that are available to meet graduation requirements.

TPERN congratulates the Carroll ISD parents who have engaged their district to bring about this change.  But we particularly want to honor and appreciate the district leadership, both administrative and elected, that have decided that they will not be defined by STAAR, that they will not place themselves above parents in determining what is the best educational approach for a child, and that they will deal with their parents honestly and openly in presenting the true options available to parents and districts in responding to state assessment requirements.

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.  The same can be true of schools that offer it in “WIN” time or homeroom or whatever special name they have.  If you have heard that your school uses full period AI or resource 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.

Also, note that until your assessment is scored, you are not under any obligation to do AI.  Opting out before scores come back is premature.

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!