The recent technology glitches are just one example of complaints over the STAAR test. In fact, there’s a growing number of parents pushing for Texas do to away with the tests. Some North Texans are going a step further by not letting their kids take the exams.
While other eighth graders across Texas spent part of last week taking the STAAR, Amanda Malone’s twins did not. Instead, the Prairie Vista middle schoolers in the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw district spent the time writing to lawmakers.
“They work all year just to take this test,” complained Malone. “We need to give education back to the teachers and teach our children. Not just show how to take a test, but educate them.”
Malone says stress over the test led her family to what's known as the ‘opt-out’ movement, which includes parents who say they're frustrated over what they see as a concerning emphasis on standardized testing in schools.
Malone and two other parents she met through a Facebook group say they found guidance from a website run by an Austin-area attorney and parent offering form letters and a step by step guide.
“I think the end game is to force the state to take a hard look at how we do assessment,
said Scott Placek with the Texas Parents’ Educational Rights Network. “And to back away from the idea that a ‘one size fits all’ standardized test is an accurate measure of what's going on in a school for a full year.”
Placek said he's been involved in the movement for three years and has seen interest from parents grow. The Texas Education Agency does not track ‘opt out’ numbers, saying the term itself is a contradiction since there is no real ‘opt-out’ option, and students are legally required to take the STAAR.
At the same time, state laws don't spell out a punishment for families, though districts could feel the heat. STAAR refusal lowers participation and passing rates and could trigger sanctions on the school and a teacher.
Malone says the decision wasn't taken lightly, but says protesting is the only way.
“We have to get our voices heard,” said Malone. “The more of us that speak out and take our children out is going to make the biggest impact.”
Eight graders must pass the math and reading portions of the STAAR to advance to ninth grade. Malone has requested a grade placement committee meeting. The district says it’s aware of a handful of parents not taking the STAAR test.