Accountability STAAR | EOC Testing

Who’s To Blame

This is a tough time for Opt Out parents because the assessment is happening and there is a lot of pushback at the school level. Sadly, this year more than ever it seems a number of school district employees have entered the TTAAS Facebook group intent on excusing every complaint a parent has. WRONG strategy this week. Just empathize. Empathize and don’t deflect. 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. If a parent complaint hurts and you respond by blaming the TEA for a local decision, I (and likely others) am going to challenge you. In the same vein, when a parent blames a school for a TEA mandate, we are quick to correct them as well. But there are many things I have seemed excused as TEA “requirements” that just aren’t.

NOBODY requires schools to lie to parents about consequences.
NOBODY requires schools to go beyond the instructions and add restrictions on to the students,
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 is 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 hold students who have finished their STAAR in the classroom until the end of the entire testing time.
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.

These are all local decisions, and if you think it is off limits to talk about that, we are not on the same side at all. 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.  If your distrct makes bad local decisions, CHANGE them.  If you think they are correct, OWN them.  Don’t push the blame onto the TEA for local decisions.  We have plenty of things to blame the TEA for without getting into things they haven’t done.

STAAR | EOC Testing

Jerk of the Week – Drew Scheberle, Austin Chamber of Commerce VP

The Jerk of the Week award is not given out every week. It’s only given out when someone engages in particularly jerky behavior. Our winner this week is none of than Austin Chamber of Commerce vice president (sorry, SENIOR vice-president) Drew Scheberle. Young Mr. Scheberle is quite the accomplished scholar. Growing up in the affluent Northern Virginia suburbs, Mr. Scheberle attended James Madison High School in Vienna, VA. James Madison is currently an 80% white/Asian-American school; presumably it was even whiter back in the 90s. Even today it’s Hispanic population is only 11% with African-Americans comprising 2% of the student body. Less than 6% of its students receive ELL services. Obviously, he is personally acquainted with the challenges facing Texas high schools. Following what we can only presume was a stellar high school career, Scheberle attended the private Trinity University (current tuition $36,000 per year). Here his exposure to African American students would have risen 50%, since they comprise 3% of Trinity’s student body.

Mr. Scheberle has earned this award for his testimony before the Senate Education Committee in opposition of SB 463, which would make permanent the extremely popular and successful implementation of Individual Graduation Committees that were created on a temporary basis by the 2015 legislature. Individual Graduation Committees let students who have passed 3 of 5 End of Course STAAR exams be reviewed on an individual basis for graduation with their class. These students must, at a minimum, have earned all the credits in the classroom that are required for graduation. A variety of factors are required to be considered and either a project or portfolio of work must be part of the process. Of course the Austin Chamber and the Texas Association of Business both opposed SB 149 in 2015, claiming it would lead to what they termed “social graduation,” playing on overstated fears of “social promotion.” Over the last two years, the data shows that nothing of the sort has happened. Rather, students are individually reviewed and carefully screened for readiness for graduation. Only about 2/3 of students reviewed are actually approved for graduation.

Believing it his duty to advocate for more test bubbling proficiency for graduation (a real world skill notably absent from any job requirements at any Chamber member we could find), Scheberle rose to the challenge! “Continuing to lower the bar is not helping,” said Drew Scheberle, vice president at the Austin Chamber of Commerce. “There are always going to be students who are right on the margin.” (Texas Tribune Article) .Now, it might be too easy to point out that a law that keeps the bar exactly where it is can’t really be said to be “lowering” the bar, but Scheberle was all in. Challenged by Sen. Kel Seliger, the author of SB 463, Scheberle was asked if he could support “the graduation of a student in Flower Mound who failed to pass one required [EOC exam] in social studies?” Snootily raising his Trinity-educated nose, Scheberle scoffed that “I would give her a GED if she earned it.” Bad idea, Drewski, bad idea. Sen. Seliger wasn’t speaking in hypotheticals. He was speaking on an actual FMHS student who graduated by IGC and now maintains a 3.6 GPA at Oklahoma Christian University. And he could have been speaking of any of the thousands of IGC graduates now making their futures in universities, community colleges, trade schools and the military, thanks to IGC process.  For many students who are English Language Learners, suffer from learning disabilities or medical impediments (and some who are just bad test-takers but perfectly proficient in the classroom), the IGC process is their only road to a diploma.  But for Country Club Drew, their worth and ability is only definable in terms of test bubbles.

For this amazing show of arrogance, snobbery and general jackassery, we congratulate Drew Scheberle, TPERN’s Jerk of the Week.

STAAR | EOC Testing

Please Set Your Password

This is a post I hate to write, but it is sadly necessary.  A number of parents choose to opt out by having their kids refuse the assessment.  This is completely fine.  Choose the best route for you.  A growing number of schools have chosen to work with parents to enable the refusal to take place in a secure environment, where the student is not bullied, and then the kid goes back to class.  That is the proper and humane approach.  And then there are the rest of them.

For some schools, there is a sense of necessity to trick the child or the parent into taking the assessment.  Kids are told they must sit in the room for four hours even if they refuse.  During that time they may be subjected to pressure from the proctor to attempt the assessment.  Even more boldly, multiple instances of trickery have been reported where the child is told that the school has just spoken with the parent and the parent wants the child to try the assessment.  This is deceitful and a gross violation of parental rights.  But it happens.  And it happens every year.  And no matter how many times we warn parents, they all claim shock and surprise.

Please take steps to prevent you and your child from being tricked.  We advocate using a password system.  You and your child agree on a password.  Once the child is at school, if they are told that you have agreed to let them take the STAAR, the teacher must give the password.  If the teacher can’t tell the student the password, the student knows it is a trick and should continue to refuse.  The student needs to be made aware that the teacher or principal may threaten punishments.  The student needs to know that these are likely just tricks and the parent will fight for the student no matter what.  No password = no attempt.  The password gives the child a sense of power and control that the school can’t take away!

I would also send my child to school with several of these:

As soon as they get into the room, set it on the desk.  If the teacher asks them to attempt the assessment, they should just hand them the card and tell them they need to talk to the parents.

Between the password and the Dear Teacher card, you can take positive steps to prevent your child from being tricked or bullied into assessment.

STAAR | EOC Testing

Conroe ISD Doubles Down on Old Lies

We’ve received a report of a demonstrably false e-mail being sent to parents at a Conroe ISD junior high school., McCullough Junior High.  The full email is below, but the closing paragraph of the e-mail read as follows:

“Also, as a general reminder to ensure there is no confusion or surprise, Texas students in eighth grade must pass both the STAAR reading and math exams. Note, eighth graders have three attempts to take each test. The first opportunities occur on 3/28 and 3/29. Texas eighth grade students who do not pass the reading and/or exams on the first attempt are required by state law to be pulled out of their regular classes and remediated during the school day for the two weeks leading up to the second administration on May 8 and May 9. Texas students who do not pass after the second attempt are required by state law to attend summer school STAAR Academy and take the test for the third time on June 20 and June 21. As you plan your summer schedule, please note this information in advance.”

So let’s break down the falsehoods this school sees fit to share with parents.  We’ll ignore the condescending, if not mocking tone of the opening “to ensure there is no confusion or surprise.”

  1.  Texas students in eighth grade must pass both the STAAR reading and math exams.  This is false because the Texas Education Code provides that students who do not pass the STAAR math or reading in 5th or 8th grade can be promoted by a Grade Placement Committee.  If we look to 2015 (the last time STAAR based retention was on the table), Conroe had a 6% 8th grade English failure rate, but only a 0.6% retention rate.  Clearly, 90% of the students who failed STAAR were not retained.  They were promoted via GPC just as the statute envisions.  Yet, the junior high does not see fit to tell parents that.  They only spread the false narrative that 8th grade is a “must pass” year.
  2. Texas eighth grade students who do not pass the reading and/or exams on the first attempt are required by state law to be pulled out of their regular classes and remediated during the school day for the two weeks leading up to the second administration.  Again, this is absolutely false.  The state requires “accelerated instruction”.  It does not specify the time, extent, or method of that instruction.  It does not require schools to pull kids out of regular classes.  It does not require the remediation be during the school day.  It does not require it to last two weeks.  These are all local decisions.  Apart from being false, this e-mail is a cowardly “pass the buck” approach for schools unwilling to take responsibility for their own local decisions.  When a parent complains about their kid being pulled out of class, the school will look them in the face and lie and say “the state requires us to do this.”
  3. Texas students who do not pass after the second attempt are required by state law to attend summer school STAAR Academy and take the test for the third time on June 20 and June 21.  The school worked really hard on this sentence to pack two entirely separate lies into one long sentence.  First, there is absolutely no state law or rule that requires students who have not passed STAAR after two attempts to attend summer school.  Moreover, this isn’t even entirely a local decision.  The law, again, requires “accelerated instruction” without requiring any particular duration, content, form, method or location.  But that is not a decision that can be made now.  The accelerated instruction for each individual student is determined by the Grade Placement Committee, of which the parent is a member.  Any school telling you what the decision of that committee will be before it even meets is essentially saying they have no intention of following the specific requirements of Texas law.  If the decision is not made by the GPC, it is not valid and can be ignored.  Second, state law does not require any student to take the third administration of STAAR.  In fact, it explicitly permits a parent to waive the third administration.  It is the one circumstance most schools will acknowledge an opt out right.  But apparently not in Conroe – they choose to lie, deceive and bully.

Let me try giving this e-mail a re-write for the hapless administration of this poor school.

“Parent partners in education, Texas students in eighth grade will soon take the STAAR reading and math exams. The first administration will occur on 3/28 and 3/29. We hope they will do well.  They’ve been working hard. But let’s keep everything in perspective.  We know a one time assessment is not a fair picture of your child’s ability.  This is why Texas law lets schools promote kids who have not passed STAAR, if they have otherwise shown they are capable of success at the next grade level.  If your eighth grade student does not pass the reading and/or math exams on the first attempt, we are required by state law to give them accelerated instruction.  We’ll make sure it isn’t disruptive to their classroom learning and communicate the plan to you in advance.  Let us know if you have any concerns about our proposed remediation and we’ll work with you.  After the second administration on May 8 and May 9, if your student has not passed both Math and Reading STAAR, we will have a GPC meeting to discuss the promotion of your child and any remediation they need to complete before the fall.  We’ll also explain how you can choose to waive the third administration of STAAR.   As you plan your summer schedule, know that we put your child and your family first.  Have a great spring break, relax, and let’s come back and finish the year strong!”

Here is the actual e-mail:

STAAR | EOC Testing

An Open Letter to Mike Morath

from Ben Becker

I am a public school parent, and I do want accountability for our schools. What makes a good school is so much more complex than what any single assessment can determine, and I look forward to the day when this is recognized by the Texas Education Agency and the Texas Legislature. Until then, thousands of concerned parents like myself along with educators fighting for authentic instruction will work to mitigate the damage done by a flawed assessment system.

Please do not hide from your own accountability

I look forward to your response. Our schools and our children are counting on your answers.

Read the full text here


STAAR | EOC Testing

TEA Scraps 5th/8th Grade STAAR Consequences

Facing a pending deadline to answer the lawsuit filed by four Texas parents challenging the 2016 STAAR administrations for grades 3-8, TEA Commissioner Mike Morath announced major changes to 5th and 8th grade STAAR for this year.  In a letter to Texas administrators, Morath announced that the TEA was “removing student consequences attached to STAAR testing for grades 5 and 8 for the remainder of the 2015-16 assessment cycle.”  These changes include requiring passage for promotion or requiring accelerated instruction as a result of the STAAR results. GPC meetings (the source of promotion decisions and accelerated instruction plans) are also no longer required. In an interview with the Dallas Morning News, the Commissioner did state that he intended to use the results for accountability ratings for schools.  In keeping with the detachment of consequences, the June retest for 5th and 8th graders was cancelled.

The Commissioner left open for district decisions regarding continuing planned accelerated instruction, but made clear it was not a requirement imposed by the state.

Attorneys for the parents stated that they were reviewing the TEA’s announcement and awaiting the answer to the lawsuit.

Accountability STAAR | EOC Testing

Call to Action: Comment on Proposed Accountability Rules

Despite knowing that the Grade 3-5, and likely the Grade 6-8 STAAR, assessments do not comply with the time limits set in Education Code, the TEA is moving forward with plans to use those ratings in the 2015-2016 accountability ratings. This is done via the rulemaking process.  Parents should submit public comment on this matter to the TEA. The proposed rule is 19 T.A.C. §97.1001. Public comment is accepted until June 27, 2016. Comments may be submitted via e-mail to The following statement, or one similar to it, should be raised in comments.

“The proposed rule 19 T.A.C. §97.1001 should be amended to require that no state assessment instrument may be used in the determination of district or campus accountability ratings unless such assessment complies with the requirements of the Texas Education Code, Texas Administrative Code, and any applicable federal law or regulation.”

Parents may also wish to cite the myriad problems with STAAR administration this year, along with the various superintendent letters on the issue.  But please, make sure you include a comment about the assessments needing to comply with the law!!!

If you wish, you can cc TPERN on the e-mail at txedrights “at”

TPERN’s public comment is pictured below:


STAAR | EOC Testing

The “Required” Summer School Notice

As the first results of the STAAR assessment come in and the days left in the school year slip away, more and more parentsof kids who failed or did not take the first assessment are receiving notices that their kids are “required” to go to summer school.  Round Rock ISD is even sending notices that the district has registered the student for summer school.  They may tell you that if they don’t attend, they will be in violation of the compulsory attendance laws.  They may tell you that unless you attend summer school you can’t be promoted by the GPC. As parents of 5th and 8th graders there is one simple and important fact you need to know:

Schools cannot unilaterally require your child to attend summer school as a result of their STAAR results.

The notices these schools are sending are a blend of truth and fiction, and it is important to understand what part is true and when you need to be concerned about it.  Let’s start with the part that has some truth to it.  The compulsory attendance statute does state that (d)  “Unless specifically exempted by Section 25.086, a student enrolled in a school district must attend:

* * *

(3)  an accelerated instruction program to which the student is assigned under Section 28.0211;

and Section 28.0211 (a-1) states that “[a]ccelerated instruction may require participation of the student before or after normal school hours and may include participation at times of the year outside normal school operations.”

This would seem to indicate that a school really can require your kid to go to summer school if they fail STAAR.  However, for parents of 5th and 8th graders, the key is this.  After the second administration of STAAR, if a child has still not passed, the accelerated instruction must be determined by the Grade Placement Committee that you are a part of.  This is clear in the statute where it states:

“After a student fails to perform satisfactorily on an assessment instrument a second time, a grade placement committee shall be established to prescribe the accelerated instruction the district shall provide to the student before the student is administered the assessment instrument the third time.”

And the parent is a member of this committee!  In other words, the school may not unilaterally send your kid to summer school for not passing STAAR.  A quick caution, there is no GPC process for grades 3, 4, 6 or 7.  If you get a summer school notice in those grades you will need to either protest and reach a new agreement with the school, exercise your 26.010 opt out rights, or withdraw your child from the school for the summer.

It is apparent based on parental reports that most schools are skipping the GPC meeting after the second administration and sending out summer school notices. So what should the strategy be for parents who are receiving these notices.  The first option would be to request your GPC meeting as soon as the second STAAR assessment is taken and come up with an agreeable Accelerated Instruction plan.  Since there is no required time, length, form or content of accelerated instruction, I recommend that parents propose a short home based or online program.  The more research you have done into what a plan like this would look like, the better chance you have of succeeding.  The school just needs to document their file for the state.  The more you help them do that, the better chance they agree.  The second option would be to simply ignore it.  Any accelerated instruction plan following the second assessment that is created by the school and not by the GPC is legally void.  Make sure that you are looking carefully for notices and do not miss the meeting if your school schedules one.  If you ignore the notice of the GPC meeting, the school can proceed without you.

Finally, please note that when the GPC meets to consider promotion, they are again required to prescribe accelerated instruction.  Further, for 5th and 8th graders note that “A student who fails to perform satisfactorily on an assessment instrument specified under Subsection (a) and who is promoted to the next grade level must complete accelerated instruction required under Subsection (a-1) before placement in the next grade level. A student who fails to complete required accelerated instruction may not be promoted.”  For this reason, it is dangerous to refuse the accelerated instruction that follows the first failed attempt.  It is very important that the parents and the school agree on what that accelerated instruction should be.  Make sure that when you refuse, the schools agreement is specifically phrased as an agreement on accelerated instruction – not just an exemption or excuse.  Again, accelerated instruction can be as simple as a single online lesson or one in school tutorial.  Whatever it is, make sure it is documented and agreed.

STAAR | EOC Testing

The Summer School “Threat”

For 5th and 8th grade students who have received or are about to receive their results, parents commonly hear “if they don’t pass/If they opt out they have to go to summer school.” Please understand, that no school has the authority to tell you that you are going to summer school. By law, accelerated instruction is not decided by the school, the district, the superintendent, or the state. Accelerated instruction is decided by a meeting of the Grade Placement Committee held after the results of the second administration are received. Any “order” or “instruction” issued by anybody other than the Grade Placement Committee is legally invalid.

How will you know if this is a decision of the GPC? Because the parent is a member! Unless you are informed of the meeting, the school cannot hold a GPC meeting. (If you are notified, but don’t attend, the GPC can meet without you.) If there is a GPC meeting, go to it, and demand accelerated instruction that is not summer school. Ask for online learning. Ask for a one day “tutorial”. Ask for a home study/remediation plan. The SSI manual is clear that accelerated instruction has no legally necessary form, length or content. It must be individualized. Show them that in the SSI manual and make them choose the right plan for your child. These are your rights. If the summer school order comes any other way, ignore it. It is not valid.

Section 504 | Special Education STAAR | EOC Testing

The GPC Process – TEA Flowcharts

For parents of 5th and 8th graders who have opted out or failed STAAR, these flow charts show the process for determination of Accelerated Instruction and Promotion/Retention.

General Education Students (p. 8 of SSI Manual)

gpc process - gened

Special Education

For special education students, the ARD committee acts as the GPC. (p. 27 of SSI manual)

gpc for sped