Tag: parent refusal

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  The answers are found in various unpublished emails and response logs, only available by public information request.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.

TEA Confirms: School Can Accept Parental Refusal of STAAR

From the earliest days of the Opt Out movement, the TEA has carved out a dichotomy between Opt Out and parental refusal that has confounded and frustrated parents and, indirectly, led to increased conflict between parents and schools.  However, as time has passed, the TEA’s outlook has become increasingly more realistic and focused on de-escalating conflict while still insisting upon participation.  For years, we have argued against the scoring of refused assessments.  One reason for this is that the practice of scoring refused assessments led to bizarre behavior by schools.  While some schools adopted parent friendly approaches like permitting the child to refuse assessment with the parent present, other schools insisted that a child refusing the assessment must be placed in a room, read all the instructions, instructed to begin work, and not released until the full time to complete the assessment passed.  Still other schools felt it was fair game to try to trick the students into taking the assessment, leading to predictable ploys like “Your mother just called” and requiring parents to implement password systems to thwart these childish games.

For several years, we have pushed back against those who lay all the blame for bad STAAR behavior on the TEA and pointed out that districts have broad authority to work with parents.  In fact, most of the “bad behaviors” we experience due to STAAR are the result of local decisions.  When the TEA has acted reasonably, we have applauded them and put the responsibility for bad conduct where it truly belongs.  Today is another one of those days.  Following several reports of students who stayed off campus for an entire assessment window being scored as having refused, we began to hear rumors that the TEA had told schools that if the parents indicated a refusal, the schools could submit the blank assessment for scoring, even if the student never set foot on campus.

This was a tidal shift, because for years the party line of the school has been “If the student is on campus, we must put the assessment in front of them and tell them to take it.”  No more.  In response to a recent Public Information Request, TPERN has received documents that confirm that “If the student/parent has refused to test during a particular testing window, the district . . . is not required to put the student in front of the test or a make-up test.”  The district need only maintain local documentation of the refusal.  This gives the Opt Out letter new importance.  Under the guidance of the TEA, the letter now constitutes sufficient evidence to permit the school to submit a blank assessment.  The student does not need to be absent for an entire administration window, or even for a single day.  And explicitly, the school is not required to put the assessment in front of the student for refusal.  As it should be, the word of the parent is sufficient.

Notably, this response was made directly to a district that was asking if it was permissible to not pull a student for makeup testing if they were absent on the assessment day and had a parent note of refusal.  Julie Cole made clear, that even if they are there on the assessment day, the school does not have to put the student in front of a test.  Similar guidance was given to ESC 14 when a school sought approval of instructions to parents that they must stay home the entire assessment window or take a makeup.

These communications should put to rest any school claims that they are “required” to present the assessment to the student.  They aren’t.  They never have been.  This common sense approach permits schools and parents to work together.  It de-escalates needless conflict and permits the viewpoints of both sides to be heard.  We applaud the TEA for clarifying this matter once and for all.

For our parents, we suggest:

(1) Use the new opt out letter which contains the refusal language;
(2) Verify with the school that your child will not be presented with the assessment.  Use these emails if needed.(Full Copy Lozano Email; Full Copy Wilson Email)
(3) We still suggest being willing to keep the student home for the main assessment days, as the schools are unlikely to be able to accommodate them with any normal learning activities.