During this time of the year, we hear so many terrible stories of teachers and administrators lying to parents and harassing them and sometimes their kids over their opt out decisions. It’s the worst at the high school level, where the “you can’t graduate without STAAR” lie is yielded like a hammer. (Read here to see all the ways to graduate without passing five STAAR EOCs). So when we see an administrator tell the truth about graduation — and even offer to sit down with the parent and check where the kid is on an alternative approach — they deserve our appreciation and huge credit.
TPERN gives a huge tip of the cap to Brian Roberson, principal of Terry High School in Lamar CISD, for one of the best written responses to an opt out that we have seen. Mr. Roberson laid out all the options, fairly, non-judgmentally, and accurately for the parent. There was no shaming, no threatening and no lying. He even cribbed some of the response from Houston CVPE, a parent advocacy group that we’ve helped with research on graduation options.
Today’s Parent’s Rights Hero is Principal Brian Roberson. He showed that schools can communicate accurate information to parents and treat them like true partners in their children’s education. His letter is below:
I want to acknowledge the receipt of your STAAR Opt-Out Letter for student, ______________.
Additionally, I wanted to advise of the following:
To graduate high school in Texas, a student must pass five STAAR end-of-course (EOC) assessments (Algebra I, Biology, English I, English II, and US History) or use a combination of several exceptions. These include a sufficient score on a substitute assessment; Spring 2020 COVID waiver, Special Education ARD, or IGC for up to two STAAR assessments.
Below are more details about high school STAAR EOC exemptions/waivers:
- INDIVIDUAL GRADUATION COMMITTEE (IGC) The individual graduation committee (IGC) process allows a student to complete an IGC packet/project instead of STAAR to substitute for two of the five STAAR high school exams. In order to qualify for IGC, you must have failed/attempted STAAR.
- SUBSTITUTE ASSESSMENT WAIVER: TEA allows students to use a substitute assessment (chart here) instead of taking the STAAR (link here.) You will need to provide your school counselor with a copy of your score.
- PSAT, SAT, ACT, AP: Students may use the SAT, PSAT, ACT, or AP substitute assessment to replace the STAAR test to meet graduation requirements and do NOT have to have taken the STAAR to qualify for using it. Schools may pressure you to take the STAAR EOC because the student will not be listed on the federal participation rate (ESSA) if they do not take the STAAR. This does NOT impact state accountability A-F ratings because the “federal participation rate is not prescribed as an element of a state’s accountability system.” TEA, however, has decided to mark students who refuse the STAAR and never actually take it with a zero score.
- TSI: The Texas Education Agency allows students enrolled in college preparatory courses to use TSI as a substitute for STAAR Algebra I, English I and English II without ever having to take the STAAR. Otherwise, state law allows a student to use TSI as a substitute assessment for STAAR Algebra I, English I and English II as long as the student has taken/failed STAAR at least twice.
- COVID SPRING 2020 WAIVERS: High school students who took and earned course credit for a course with a corresponding STAAR EOC assessment in spring or summer 2020 have the exam requirement waived. (TEA Documentation LINK HERE) Students will not be responsible for taking that associated STAAR exam as a graduation requirement as long as they earned course credit.
Example: If a student in 9th grade in spring/summer 2020 passed Algebra I, Biology and English I, they received a waiver for the STAAR in the corresponding courses and are only obligated to only pass English II and US History in order to graduate.
- Out of state or out of country Course: If the student completed the B part of Algebra I, English I, Biology, English II or US History in another state or country, they will be exempt from taking and passing the STAAR in that subject.
- SPECIAL EDUCATION Students must attempt or fail STAAR once in order to be able to graduate regardless of whether they passed the STAAR or not. Special Education students who qualify for STAAR Alt 2 ( generally students in an SLL or SLC class) can be exempt from STAAR by the ARD committee.
- Graduating seniors: If a graduating senior has two or less STAAR exams that they have not passed, they can use IGC instead of taking the STAAR. If a graduating senior has three or more STAAR exams they have not passed, they will need to pass one of the remaining STAAR exams in order to graduate in June.