Tag: return to class

SUCCESS! Unreasonable District Suddenly Gets Reasonable!

Sorry for the length! You asked for responses and details…😅
We live in Northwest ISD. We have kids at PVE and CTMS. We’ve lived in the district 7 years, but homeschool off and on as we see fit. All the while following the Texans Take Actions Against STAAR facebook page and preparing ourselves. This is our first year having to deal with STAAR “opt out”… We had very high hopes of easy cooperation from the schools, but that was not the case. After sending our tailored opt-out letters from TXEdRights.net to each of our kids’ teachers/principals, we were replied to by the assistant principals from each school with their own form letter provided by the district. We replied with the Step 2: response letter from TXEdRights.net along with some of our own choice words. At this point, PVE quit responding, but not CTMS. The AP replied back, doubling down on their stance and “explained the consequences for students who refuse to take the required exams.” ending with “I have shared these requirements with you so you can make an informed decision for your family. I hope you will reconsider your position and allow your children an opportunity to take the required exams.” We REALLY didn’t appreciate the implication that we are uninformed or attempts at intimidation with threats of consequences. You can see our reply in the screenshot below:

She replied back again saying “I have heard your concerns.” and the school district has no choice and laying out again the consequences we will face if we follow through.🙄 It was getting very annoying feeling like we were dealing with a brick wall who could do nothing but repeat back the same talking points and not process new information given to them, but we tried again. We attached the Julie Cole emails and pointed out that she clarified students are not even required to be presented the assessment. We ended with: “We see 3 viable options proceeding forward: 
1. You honor our parental rights and concede our children will not be presented with the STAAR.
2. Our children are absent on the initial administration day. You refuse to acknowledge our rights and try to present it to them upon their return. They will tab through to the end, submit a blank assessment, and return to class to continue learning.
3. We pull our children from school altogether and continue homeschooling, as we have for the majority of their schooling careers, and you miss out on that funding that is tied to them.
Under no option, will our children answer a single STAAR question or be subjected to a single hour of Accelerated Instruction, (but that is a disagreement we will settle when the time comes to not convolute the matter at hand).”
At this point she quit replying to us. Finally, weeks later my husband approached the head principal at Open House night and was told to take it up with a contact at the district. He emailed us her information. So we emailed her CC-ing each school’s principal & assistant principal. By this point our patience was very thin and we weren’t up for starting another pointless back and forth so we went all in upfront.
We gave her our background and followed with: “We cannot overstate how disappointed we have been since we notified both of the schools our children attend that they will not be taking the STAAR and the response we have gotten from each: identical responses that are obviously coming from someone other than the individual principals we are dealing with.
I know you don’t know our children so I’ll share a little about them. Two are in GT/GATES. The other is not, not because she doesn’t qualify, but she has always refused assessment. She’s just not interested in that particular pursuit. They all perform extremely well on the MAP assessment and it even predicts they will score “Masters” on the STAAR. Sadly, we know this only further incentivizes your stance as you see that purely as a bolster to the district’s performance level/grade. Our disagreement with the STAAR is multifaceted and not JUST about our children personally, but also about the overall injustice of the entire state assessment system. 
We have been encouraged in the past when the district itself spoke out against the STAAR accountability system on the Facebook page and pointed out our kids’ are more than just one score. Again, how disappointed we’ve been to find you’ve decided to cave and just fall in line. We know the law/TEA has stated “you cannot opt out of a test”. We also know the STAAR is NOT a test. It is an assessment. We know schools are required to give each student an opportunity to take it. We are not “opting out”. We are informing you of our intent to refuse. We also know Julie Cole (from the TEA) has clarified and given instructions on how to handle such circumstances and sadly that has not been the case of our interactions with the schools. Attached we will include the emails from Julie Cole, just in case that is news to you, and also a form from another ISD that is a MUCH better way to handle this situation than what we’ve been met with. 
We, as a society, are always encouraging and teaching the generations, starting with the books for small children saying: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” and “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.” We intend to do more than just repeat these quotes, but show our children by example that change takes action, even if it’s uncomfortable. We realize the system is set up against not only the kids, but the teachers and districts as well. We are not trying to fight you, but rather fight for you. It was very discouraging, but not defeating, to be met with the response we’ve gotten. Maybe you were unaware of Julie Cole’s instructions. Maybe you didn’t know you could create a form to facilitate parents with our beliefs. Now you do. In the words of Maya Angelou, “When you know better, you do better.” We look forward to being worked with on this matter going forward, instead of being fed misinformation, attempts at intimidation, and being dictated to. 
We are also aware that HB4545 requires the schools to offer 30 hours of AI to students who do not score well enough on STAAR. We are also aware of our rights on this and seeing as our children are in no way underperforming in their classes and will never take STAAR, they will be in no need of AI and we will be refusing that as well. We would appreciate your immediate cooperation on this without a back and forth fight. This is the hill we have come to die on.”
She replied: “Thank you for reaching out to us and advocating for your children. We at Northwest ISD must follow the state and federal laws and policies regarding testing and assessment. If your children attend school on a testing day, they will be in a classroom with other students that are testing on that day. The teacher will read the directions to the class. If your children do not take the test, the teacher will verify with your child that they are not taking the test. We will submit the blank test as “S” for scorable, as Ms. Cole explained in the emails. Your children can quietly read a book for the remainder of the testing period.”
🎉FINALLY a little respect and reason. We followed up “Thank you for your prompt response. Should our children attend on the administration days that will be an acceptable handling of the situation.
 Most likely we will keep them home as we feel they can have a more educationally enriched day outside of the assessment environment rather than being forced to sit in silence for hours. When they return to school the following day, we see no reason for them to even be presented the assessment at that point. As Julie Cole states, that is unnecessary. We expect our numerous emails on the topic sufficient for the local documentation required, and they will be allowed to go directly to class and not be pulled from instruction. Can we get confirmation this will be the case? Again, thank you so much for your help in this matter.”
Getting her reply: “On a make-up day, the CTCs will verify with your children that they are not testing. The blank test will be submitted with an “S” score for scorable. Your student will then go to class. The entire process will take under 5 minutes.”  We verified this with each campus.
We tried to continue the fight and ensure a better response for us and others in the future, but the district representative did not reply to our email regarding that. For now we are taking our win and so grateful for all the help of Scott and everyone else behind the scenes at TXEDRIGHTS and Texans Take Action Against STAAR!
Eric & Sarah J

OPTING OUT – Step by Step

How to Opt Out/Decline/Refuse STAAR

January 2024 Update: This article has been updated to reflect the practice of the TEA which permits schools to accept parental refusals without placing the assessment in front of the student.

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, there is no guarantee that your school district will work with you. Fortunately, the past few years have brought more cooperation and the chances for a better outcome are greater than ever.  But if you are met with resistance, you still hold the power.  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.


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.



It is extremely unlikely you will receive a response from the school indicating that your child will not be administered the STAAR.  You will almost certainly 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).  In that case, go to STEP THREE.

Some schools have taken to simply acknowledging the letter which leaves the parent in a bit of limbo.  They acknowledge they received the letter but they don’t tell you what they are going to do.  We take this as an opportunity to explore the refusal option.  If you get one of these non-committal acknowledgements, we recommend you send a facilitated refusal request (form forthcoming).

If the facilitated refusal request is agreed to, you simply need to follow up and iron out the details (will you stay home on the main administration day, if not where will she go, do they need you or her to sign anything, etc).  You may get emailed with the list of “consequences” for refusing.  Now is not the time to engage that list.  Now is the time to get a refusal set up.  You can simply acknowledge that you understand what they have communicated to you.  If your request for a facilitated refusal is granted, continue to STEP FIVE.  Otherwise go to STEP THREE.


At this point, unless the school relents, you will need to make a decision. The choices of the parent here are multiple:

(A) Keep your child home on STAAR days. If you choose (A), you must be aware of not only the primary 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.  (2023-2024 Calendar, as TEA appears to have made its calendar page private!!) Now a school is not REQUIRED to use the full testing window, but they can.  Unless you learn that they school has completed all assessments and returned the testing materials to the state, then you should assume the entire window might be used.  NOTE: the assessment windows are very long now, and it may be difficult to completely stay out of all assessment days.

(B) Send them for the assessment and instruct them to page to the end  without answering any questions, submit it and confirm their submission.  This is a far easier option than refusing a paper administration ever was.  This is because the assessment can be submitted blank without ever interacting with the proctor.  Although some schools are adding steps of telling students to raise their hands before submitting, that is not a requirement.  Instruct your student to just submit it when they get to the end, being careful not to answer any questions along the way.  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. Should 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.  Refusing in this manner can be done without any notice to the school at all, although we strongly urge parents to make a written record of their protest.

(C) Keep your kid home the main day of STAAR and then return and refuse the assessment on the makeup day.  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 (or sign some other indicator). 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.

(D) Advocate for the school to accept your refusal.  This option has become available to parents over the last few years since the TEA has made clear that schools may accept a parental refusal.  Before this, the position of the school was always that “if the student is on campus, we are required to put the assessment in front of them.”  This led to numerous situations where devious test administrators lied to students, cajoled them to disobey their parents or otherwise pressured students who had been told to refuse to participate instead.  The TEA has made clear that this is not required and that the school may accept the parental refusal and simply submit the assessment for scoring as if the student refused in person.  Review this article on the parental refusal.

I want to be super clear – no matter what approach you take, you must prepare for the possibility that the school will try to pull your child for assessment.  No matter what they have said or how much you trust them — BE PREPARED.  Let your child know not to take it.  Tell the kid to call you if they pull him for STAAR.  Walk in with them.  Set up a password system.  Have them trained to tab through if they get stuck in an assessment room!  It’s sad but every year parents send their kids back to school thinking their opt out will be honored, and the school pulls the kid who is unprepared and caves in and takes the assessment.  That’s on us as parents.  BE PREPARED!  Hope for the best; prepare for the worst.  Be one of the many success stories, not the surprise and disappointed victim of school bullying.



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  15 hours of tutoring (in a 4:1 3:1 ratio) for each reading or math STAAR not passed.  (HB 4545 HB 1416).  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 school forms and enrollment documents carefully.  NEVER waive the 4:1 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.


If your child either refuses to complete the assessment on an administration day or if they refuse on a makeup day, you may use the FERPA corrective letter to ask to have the scored assessment removed from your child’s educational records at both the state and local level. The TEA will still score the assessment, and your request will almost certainly be denied, but you can demand your letter be included in his academic file.  THIS SHOULD ONLY BE DONE AFTER YOU RECEIVE SCORE REPORTS.


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!


Some districts  threaten truancy charges or send notices about truancy to parents who keep their kids out for all or a large part of the assessment window. But we see this less and less since truancy laws have been modified (see 2017/2016 notes below), and because most parents use some type of agreed or in person refusal to get back to class.  However, if you are missing days to opt out and receive a threat, 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.

Updated 1/22/24