Tag: STAAR

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.

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.

Peaster ISD Superintendent Calls Out Governor on Parents’ Rights

In a YouTube video released today, Peaster ISD superintendent Lance Johnson called out the hypocrisy of Gov. Abbott’s political theatre ploy of announcing his fealty to the so called “parents’ rights” movement that is gaining political currency amongst the Republican electorate. After focusing on the school shutdown and mask mandates that came from the Abbott administration, Supt. Johnson then moves to the issue that motivates us at TPERN: the right of parents to refuse their child’s participation in the STATE STAAR accountability assessments. Johnson correctly notes that Abbott has never voiced support for parental rights in this area. And he points out that we haven’t heard STAAR opt out mentioned by Abbott in his latest “parents rights” speechmaking. Supt. Johnson labels it for what is is: political grandstanding that has no real basis in reality when you look at Abbott’s actual beliefs as evidence by his governance of the state, his appointees at the TEA, and his non-mentions of STAAR in any of these speeches. And he closes by arguing for the complete abolition of STAAR. Superintendent Johnson, whether our supporters agree about masks and school closures is unimportant. We thank you for standing up for parents rights and for the kids on the issue of STAAR and parental opt out.

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!

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

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

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: https://www.txedrights.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=13

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

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 or the legislature.  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 and districts have wide latitude in how they choose to respond to parents who refuse assessment and the actual experience of the students.  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 try to impose tutoring and other test prep before, during or after school hours based on their local benchmarks.
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.

 

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!