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Articles STAAR | EOC Testing

Bubbling All “A” on STAAR is a BAD Idea

For reasons that are not clear to me, we’ve seen a sharp increase in “helpful” parents suggesting the answer to STAAR is to go along and bubble all “A” or all “C” or make some random design.  PLEASE DO NOT LISTEN TO THAT SUGGESTION!  Bubbling all the same answer will produce data.  That data will them be displayed across numerous axes and presented in a manner that demonstrates the deficiencies of your child academically.  The teachers and staff will then develop a plan to remediate your child based on this data you have so helpfully created.  Electives will be dropped and special state funded remediation classes will be added to your child’s schedule.  And when you go to complain, there will be data demonstrating exactly why they are doing what they are doing.

Now, maybe you will convince them to actually look at the answers and see that she chose the same answer. (P.S. If you actually tell your kid to bubble randomly you are stuck with the data – WORST ADVICE EVER).  Maybe that will convince them to drop the nonsense, but don’t count on it.  Because following the data is the safe play of the lazy and weak-minded.  They are safe professionally to just do what the data says than to think independently and say “this student was making a statement when they chose all the same answer.”  (Incidentally, you can’t choose all the same answer, because STAAR choices alternate between starting with A and F – now try explaining your strategy when you have to meet with the school!).

 

So what can you do to effectively refuse the assessment?

If taking a paper administration:

1) Bubble nothing

2) Bubble at least two choices for every question

Both of these options will produce no data other than the raw score.

If taking an online administration:

Page through to the end and submit the assessment.  Once the submission is confirmed, you are done.  The STAAR Test Administration manual indicates that there are three steps to successfully submitting the test:

We also recommend giving your child pre-written notes or cards indicating that they are refusing (by whichever method you wish) and asking the teacher to contact the parent if they have any questions but not to pressure the student to disobey the parent.

Comment on this article on the TxEdRights Forum!

Categories
Accountability STAAR | EOC Testing

TPERN Urges Comment Opposing Sub Assessment Rule

We know the TEA plans to make it harder for kids to use substitute assessments to graduate high school. This rule is the first step. Please read and send a comment to the TEA! We need to flood them to have a chance!!!
HOW DO WE COMMENT?
Go to the Web Address for Public Comment: https://form.jotform.com/81206305801142

WHAT IS THE ISSUE?

The TEA is proposing to require students to take the STAAR EOC at least one time before using a substitute assessment. This is not in the law and is not needed to address federal accountability concerns.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
Assessment policy is the business of the legislature. The federal government does not require EOCs for high school graduation. The Texas legislature has determined that students with good scores on national assessments should be able to use those in place of the STAAR EOC scores to satisfy state graduation requirements. The TEA is proposing to limit that ability by refusing to allow passing – even perfect – national assessment scores count unless the student first attempts the STAAR EOC. Anytime an agency thinks it has the power to override the law passed by our elected representative, it is important and we all should be concerned.
WHY ARE THEY DOING THIS?
Because the US Dept. of Education requires the state to assess kids three times during high school as part of their accountability plan. Since the scoring rubric is not the same on STAAR EOC and the national assessment, the feds will not let TEA count substitute assessments for accountability purposes. The TEA is messing with graduation requirements because they want every kid to take the STAAR for the federal government.
WHY DON’T THEY JUST REQUIRE THE KIDS TO TAKE THE EOC BUT NOT LIMIT THE GRADUATION OPTIONS THE LEGISLATURE CREATED?
The odd thing is, that is also in this rule. So we should ask what the real motive is for trying to make graduation by substitute assessment more difficult. The bottom line is that this rule on substitute assessment for graduation is absolutely not required for accountability reasons.
WHAT CAN I DO?

The TEA is accepting comments on this rule until November 12th. They can be made using an online form or by mail. Details and talking points are attached. If we want to have an impact, we must FLOOD them with opposition. Emphasize that part (c)(1) of this rule is absolutely not needed, because part (e) already requires the assessment for accountability purposes.

THEN WHAT?

Send us a copy of your submission to txedrights@gmail.com! Copy House Public Education vice-chair Diego Bernal at diego.bernal@house.texas.gov and Kirk Watson in the Senate: kirk.watson@senate.texas.gov. If you send your comment on or before October 25, add these words at the end: “I request a public hearing.”

See the notes here!!

https://docdro.id/OuJvGxW

Categories
Accountability STAAR | EOC Testing

TPERN Condemns TEA Proposal On Substitute Assessments; Accuses Commissioner of Exceeding Authority

Today the Texas Education Agency proposes a rule[1] that would tell a high school student who has met the required passing scores on state approved nationally recognized assessment instruments that they are not entitled to a Texas High School Diploma unless they also submit to take a state created assessment for which they have no required performance standard.  It is the ultimate bureaucratic creation of data for the sake of data, and it is an unnecessary, punitive measure intended to threaten and intimidate parents into abandoning control of the education of their children.  More importantly, it is an illegal attempt by the commissioner to substitute his judgment for the judgment of the legislature.  Any Texan who believes in the separation of powers and the rights of parents to direct the education of their children must oppose this rule.  TPERN will be asking its supporters to voice their opinion through the public comment process.

The TEA proposed rule is an unnecessary and improper incursion into the constitutional powers of the legislature.  The substitute assessment statute allows the commissioner to define a method for the use of substitute assessments, but it does not permit him to add impediments to their use not contained in the statute.  The law is clear that the legislature intends that “a student’s satisfactory performance [on a substitute] assessment instrument shall be used to satisfy the requirements concerning an end-of-course assessment instrument.”

The commissioner errs by adding an EOC attempt requirement where none exists and where the existing statute in fact contemplates the opposite.

“A student who fails to perform satisfactorily on a test or other assessment instrument authorized under this subsection, other than the PSAT or the ACT-Plan, may retake that test or other assessment instrument for purposes of this subsection or may take the appropriate end-of-course assessment instrument.  A student who fails to perform satisfactorily on the PSAT or the ACT-Plan must take the appropriate end-of-course assessment instrument.”

As set forth above, for instruments other than the PSAT and the ACT-Plan, the legislature clearly gives the student the choice of attempting another substitute OR taking the EOC.  The commissioners rule deprives the student of this choice.  Likewise, consider the clear statutory imperative of initial attempts in allowing the use of the TSI as a substitute assessment.  In that case the legislature wrote:

A student who, after retaking an end-of-course assessment instrument for Algebra I or English II, has failed to perform satisfactorily as required by Subsection (a), but who receives a score of proficient on the Texas Success Initiative (TSI) diagnostic assessment for the corresponding subject for which the student failed to perform satisfactorily on the end-of-course assessment instrument satisfies the requirement concerning the Algebra I or English II end-of-course assessment, as applicable.

Here the legislature has clearly required two attempts as a condition to using TSI scores as a substitute for Algebra I or English II EOCs.  The substitute assessment statutes are notably silent on any other pre-requisite attempts as a condition for the use of substitute assessments.

Where the legislature has expressed its will in one area relating to substitute assessments, but withheld any such requirements from other areas, the commissioner may not impose additional restrictions by rule.  The commissioner’s efforts to amend the statute by rulemaking exceed his authority and must be rejected.

Moreover, the restriction on graduation is wholly unnecessary.  What the commissioner wants is higher participation in the EOCs for accountability purposes.  This is accomplished simply with his amendment of Rule 101.4002 (e).  This amendment alone would require a student to take each EOC one time, but it would not prevent a qualified student from graduating if they failed to take the EOC.

By attempting to condition the use of substitute assessments on an initial failure of the state EOCs, the Commissioner markedly changes the law.  This is not a permissible use of rulemaking.  Moreover, it is wholly unnecessary.  The commissioner’s decision threatens to keep good students from graduating by rule when all statutory requirements have been met.  It cannot stand.

Finally, TPERN condemns the TEA’s willful avoidance of the legislature as the proper venue to address this issue.  In the proposed rule, the TEA admits that it was aware of the accountability issue since December 2018.  An entire legislative session passed without ANY ATTEMPT to adjust the substitute assessment statute.  Once the legislature had safely adjourned, the commissioner then undertook to change the law in the darkness of agency rulemaking, rather than in the sunshine of the Capitol dome.  This cynical approach to the rule of law demeans the vote of every Texan and should be repudiated by every sitting legislator.

[1] The proposed rule can be viewed at https://docdro.id/khK93zB

Categories
STAAR | EOC Testing

What About High School? (updated 2019)

The Opt Out movement has grown steadily with parents in Grades 3 through 8 learning to navigate the intricacies of opting out, declining accelerated instruction and handling grade placement committee meetings for Grades 5 and 8.  However, the usual thought process has always been that when the kids hit high school, the stakes rise.  Now, the TEA wields its biggest hammer: the EOC graduation requirement.  A standard line amongst opt out activists is that you simply can’t do it in high school.  But more and more Texas parents are proving that the opposite is true.  More and more Texas kids are finishing their Texas high schools without having taken some or all of the EOCS.  I go a step further.  I hold that, for a committed opt out parent, if you can put aside sentimentality and about $2.50 a week, you, and not the school, hold all the power.

Let’s begin with the best news about high school opt out.  EOC passage plays no role in grade advancement.  Advancement by grade is wholly dependent on passing the classes — just the way it should be.  Since the repeal of the 15% law, EOC exams form no part of a student’s class grade.  Again, as it should be.  EOC results have no bearing on UIL eligibility.  That is strictly based on classroom grades, as it should be.  In other words, the threats that most often deter parents at the elementary and middle school level, that their child will be retained, do not exist in high school.  If your child passes the class and obtains the academic credit, they move on with their grade.

Instead the threat is overt and codified in statute.  Unless your child passes all five EOC examinations, they cannot receive a Texas public high school diploma.  Except they can graduate via the IGC (Individual Graduation Committee) process by passing just three out of five EOCs.  Still, you say, that’s three EOCs we have to take and we want to refuse them all.  But the schools say pass three STAARs or don’t graduate.  That’s not true.  In reality, there are approved substitute assessments that neither the TEA nor the school districts publicize.  And the schools have no choice here.  The Education Code permits the use of substitute assessments.  Other than using the TSI assessment as a substitute, there is ZERO requirement that you first attempt and fail the STAAR EOC.  These substitute assessments, which can be found on the TEA website usually take the form of college readiness assessments, such as AP, IB SAT and ACT assessments.  While they are still standardized testing, these assessments have a much longer history and are much better written than the STAAR examinations.  A student who is “close” on STAAR may find these assessment levels more readily attainable.  Parents are responsible for providing the school with adequate proof of the substitute assessment score. But once they do, that student has met the EOC graduation requirement and does not need that STAAR EOC to graduate.

But maybe you are a hard core resister.  Or maybe you want to be! (Don’t we all?)  Even taking the substitute assessments is too much compliance for you!  I’m right there with you.  I never took an “EOC” to graduate.  My grades and credits earned me my diploma, not some scaled four digit score that nobody can understand.  What can you do to fight STAAR and still have your kid be an accredited high school graduate?  Well here is where the $2.50 a week and lack of sentimentality comes in. Now why did I say put aside sentimentality?  Because in my experience, the biggest impediment to a parent proactively fighting STAAR at the high school level is the parental dream of seeing their child walk across the stage and receive their high school diploma.  It is a scene played out in the parent’s head that in most instances holds far more meaning for the parent than the student.  For students, events like prom, class trips and mementos such as class rings mean far more than sitting in the Texas sun to receive a piece of paper.  To live out this dream, parents readily subject their children, despite learning disabilities, test anxiety, English language acquisition or a myriad of other causes that render STAAR an unreliable assessment, to the annual dreaded cycle of testing, retesting and summer school.  A student challenged in language arts, may take 20 ELA assessments in their high school career in hopes of getting a passing grade.  A math challenged student may take 11 assessments hoping to get that passing mark.  Hours upon hours will be spent in STAAR tutorials and summer school.  Jobs, family vacations and curriculum enriching courses will go by the wayside all for the parent’s dream of seeing the child walk the stage.

In my mind, this is foolishness.  The psychic benefit of that “moment” is grossly outweighed by the psychological trauma to the child.  My son talks about his STAAR tutorial classes as the classes for the “stupid kids.”  That is how he sees himself.  That is how his peers categorize the students pulled out for STAAR remediation. Every ounce of educational privacy rights is obliterated by pull out instruction and remediation that is visible to the peers of these students.  If I had only known . . .

Remember the $2.50 a week I told you to put away?  For about $500, a parent can transfer all the class credits their child earns during their high school career to a private school, and after a short online “tutorial”, receive a fully accredited diploma.  Your child becomes a high school graduate.  There is no stage and no cap and gown, but that credential that opens the door to high school, military service our other pre-requisites is obtained without taking a single standardized test.  The parent wins.  The child wins.  You use your taxpayer provided public schools for every single classroom credit your child needs.  Then you say “thank you very much” send a check for $500 and get the accredited diploma from a private school.  One such program is the CVEP program through The Oaks Private School.   The school is fully accredited.   The diploma is accepted for post-secondary education.  You receive full transcripts.  You win.  (The Texas Success Academy is another option.  In full disclosure, I have spoken with the person who runs the program but do not know any parents who have used it.

Personally, I have spent well over $500 on tutoring, test prep materials, and other services designed to help my now senior level son pass STAAR. (Update: My son only passed three STAARs.  We refused to continue with them and he graduated via IGC in 2015.  He’s since earned vocational certificate at the local community college and decided he wants to give academic courses a try.)  We’ve studied, crammed, argued, fought and cried over this ridiculous STAAR assessment.  When I discovered CVEP, that all stopped.  We made a deal to focus on the areas we agree he needs to improve, continue his strong classroom achievement, and when the school year ends, we’ll do the CVEP program and receive his diploma.  It’s the credential, not the ceremony that matters.  The stress level has dropped dramatically.  Had I known of this program when my son entered 9th grade, he would never have taken a single EOC.

High school parents, with a little planning and an objective outlook, you really do hold all the power.  Take as many or as few EOCs as you wish.  Try the substitute assessments, or don’t. The only threat the school has is to withhold the diploma, but you can tell them “so what.”  You don’t have to homeschool.  You don’t have to pay four years or even one semester of private school tuition.  You can use and exploit the public education you pay for with your taxes.  Your child can play sports with their peers, join the band, compete in One Act Play, and every other activity available to their neighborhood friends.  And they can do it without taking a single EOC.  All you have to do is let go of sentimentality, make it about your child, and tell the school “No thanks, we don’t need your diploma.”  High school opt out, in many ways, is easier than younger levels because the kids are more likely to be able to assert themselves and it won’t affect their class standing.  Just be informed and have a plan, and you might be surprised how easy the rest of it is.

Updated 9/13/19

A special note for SpEd parents:  Once your child hits 9th grade, ask the ARD to write into his IEP that graduation will be based on credits and not on EOC results.  They will require him to attempt each one once. Make sure the IEP says only one attempt.  Because the TEA insists on grading refused assessments, your child can meet the “attempt” requirement simply by turning in his blank assessment.  He will be permitted to graduate with a foundation level diploma.

Discuss this Article:  This article can be discussed on our user forum at this link: http://www.txedrights.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=13

Comments submitted after 1/16/20 must be submitted by the link above.

Categories
STAAR | EOC Testing

STAAR Madness: TEA or Local Decisions

This is a tough time for Opt Out parents because the assessment is happening and there is a lot of pushback. When complaints come, the natural response is to blame the TEA.  But is that fair?  Is that accurate?  Everybody here understands that the TEA tells schools how to administer the assessment and to score refused assessments. Everyone here understands how promotion and graduation work. What people fail to acknowledge is that, apart from that, schools have wide latitude in how they choose to respond to parents who refuse assessment.  There are many things I have seen excused as TEA “requirements” that just aren’t.

NOBODY requires schools to lie to parents about consequences.
NOBODY requires schools to benchmark, practice assess and otherwise do full or mini-assessments as prep for STAAR multiple times a semester.
NOBODY requires schools to go beyond the instructions and add restrictions on to the students (like requiring them to sit for four hours after finishing/refusing assessment),
NOBODY requires schools to threaten retention
NOBODY requires schools to pretend passing STAAR is the only way to get promoted to the next grade.
NOBODY requires schools to not check if substitute assessments have already satisfied some EOC requirements.
NOBODY requires schools to try to bully A/B students into summer school (I mean test prep) because they didn’t take STAAR.
NOBODY requires principals to try to intimidate parents into submitting their kids for assessment.
NOBODY requires schools to wait until August to promote kids by GPC if they refused STAAR.
NOBODY requires schools to harass parents of kids who aren’t at school on STAAR day.
NOBODY requires teachers to tell students they their jobs depend on how the student does on STAAR.
NOBODY requires schools to lock down the building and ban visitors on STAAR days.
NOBODY requires schools to tell students they can’t talk to their parents about STAAR.
NOBODY requires students to eat sack lunches at their desk on STAAR days.
NOBODY requires schools to keep non-testing kids inside and ban recess on STAAR days.

and

NOBODY requires schools to offer even a single make up day for STAAR, much less a two week window!!!

These are all local decisions and it is not off limits to talk about. We opt out because we want you to have the freedom to teach. But we expect local districts to do what they can (and that’s a lot) to make sure that it does not make the STAAR environment worse than it already is. If your school or district is doing any of those things, and you try to blame the TEA for it, then you are going to get pushback here, because it’s false information.

 

Categories
English Language Learners | ELL Section 504 | Special Education STAAR | EOC Testing

Real STAAR Tips: How “Hustle Mom” Comes Up Short

Dallas area blogger “Hustle Mom” aka Dawn Monroe has come up with a handy dandy list of tips for parents to help their kids excel on STAAR, and at the same time makes a gratuitous (or not) plug for family-centered McDonalds.

Despite apparently recognizing that “[t]eachers and students prepare for this test all year long, and the stress it often brings is enough to fill the entire state,” Hustle Mom wants to make sure you eek out those last extra points on STAAR.  She gives handy tips like study old STAAR assessments and don’t stress your kid out. Great tips, but it’s just a start.  Here’s my comment to Hustle Mom, which I am going to guess she won’t approve for posting on her blog.

This list is a great start, but let me add a few other suggestions to really make sure your kid does great on STAAR.

#1. Start working an extra job or increase your employability. Since STAAR results have shown to most closely align with the socio-economic status of the family, you can really give your kid a boost by bringing home a little more bacon each week.  See generally “The Widening Income Achievement Gap

#2. Don’t waste time reading books with your kid. STAAR only tests “close reading” of very brief passages. So rather than waste valuable parent-child time bonding over bedtime stories, or encouraging your child to engage his mind and imagination with juvenile fiction, try to vary each night 3-6 paragraph selections of non-fiction and fiction, and come up with your own multiple choice questions. Fun for the whole family!

#3. Practice bubbling. We all know that most employers are insistent on knowing how you did on your elementary level standardized assessments. I keep my results laminated in my wallet, don’t you? Since stray marks can count against kids, it’s time to put away coloring books or the watercolor set and really focus on fully darkening ovals, but not going outside the lines! Let’s face it. Isn’t competitiveness in today’s world marked by not going outside the lines?

#4. Learn not to be dyslexic (or a non-native speaker). If your child is really serious about STAAR success, some extra sacrifice may be required. Since the failure rates of students with learning disabilities and English language learners are exponentially higher than general ed students, if your kid is one of those unlucky ones, work really hard with them to not be dyslexic or to grow up speaking only English. Sure they take the same assessment as anyone else, but the TEA gives them special accommodations. Mind you the research shows that those accommodations only help general ed students not their target group. LOL! Man, the STAAR is full of irony. So if you really want your kid to do well, make sure you teach them to stop being dyslexic.

If none of those ideas will work for you, you might just want to Opt Out and enjoy life during the STAAR days!

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
Accountability STAAR | EOC Testing

Texas Republican Files Bill to Eliminate STAAR Uses

Website Article (CBS 7)

Odessa Republican Brooks Landgraf has filed HB 736 which would eliminate the use of STAAR for promotion, graduation and accountability purposes.  Stay tuned for information on how we can help!

 

Categories
STAAR | EOC Testing

TPERN Praises Aledo ISD Reconsideration

Following publication of the “monetary fines” letter on txedrights and extensive discussion on social media, the administration at the Aledo ISD elementary school that conceived the program has revisited the punitive approach and decided instead to implement the program with a focus on encouraging students.  TPERN is pleased to see that the program has been reconsidered and modified to be non-punitive in nature.  We hope this incident gives occasion to reflect upon how the pressure to perform on STAAR impacts the learning environment for principals, teachers, parents and students alike.

Categories
Other

Prep or Pay: Aledo ISD Threatens Fines for STAAR Prep

According to parents, an Aledo ISD 4th grade class has been told to prep or pay!  While this is extreme (and in fact may reflect some type of fake reward money), the obsession with testing and test prep leaps off the page at you.  Consider this the next time someone tells you that STAAR prep isn’t driving the curriculum:

  1. Every day  a seven question prep packet goes home to the student.  Every single day.  During the course of the run up to STAAR, you can expect almost 200 STAAR prep questions from math class alone, without respect to any homework based on the actual curriculum!
  2. Some of the questions, which will be graded, will come from material that has not been taught yet!! How is this sound educational practice?  If we want a student to learn something, TEACH IT!
  3. Extensive classroom time will be taken up going over STAAR prep questions every single day! 
  4. Consequences attach to not completing the STAAR prep.  Because nothing says learning like threats and punishment.  Remember, monetary fines!
  5. Parents are instructed not to help their kids and in fact to specifically deny help.  Why?  Because that is how the STAAR does it.

The mindset behind these spring STAAR policies is as warped as the curriculum.  Aledo ISD should denounce this ill conceived plan and focus on learning, not prepping for standardized assessments.

Please see the update here.