One district changes the rules as more parents opt kids out of STAAR testing

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas Parents Opt Out say parents from more than 30 districts across the state have sent “opt out” letters to their schools, taking their children out of STAAR testing. And now, at least one school district is changing the rules.

Four students in the Waco ISD are refusing to take the STAAR test, but that district is allowing the students to attend school and receive “meaningful activities.” Baylor professor Kyle Massey pushed for the move after learning if his child opted out of STAAR, his only option was to keep his son home from school and accept an unexcused absence. He was told schools must administer the test to every student attending on test day.

It was the first time in Texas that a school district agreed to provide other instruction and teaching to students who are not taking the test but still choose to be present at school on testing day.

In Lake Travis, Carolyn Long is opting out of her fifth grade son taking STAAR. Lake Travis ISD says he is the only student opting out in the entire district. Long said she was told the absence was unexcused.

“The Lake Travis ISD sent me a letter saying that it was mandatory that he take the test and that if he showed up for school, they were obligated to put the test in front of him,” Long said. “And if he did not take it, they would put a score of zero and mark it as a failing grade.” Her son has all passing grades, but has severe test anxiety.

Since her son has allergies, she lined up a doctor’s appointment to have a doctor’s note so the absence would not count against her son. Still, she worries about whether it will be challenging to now have him promoted to sixth grade.

By not taking the STAAR, her son’s teachers and his principal will have to unanimously agree to allowing him to move on to 6th grade.  If that doesn’t happen, Carolyn says she is prepared to home school.

“We’ve got a bunch of idiots making decisions outside the classroom who do not understand what it’s like to teach and what it’s like to learn inside the classroom.” said Ken Zarafis. He was a teacher for 12 years and is now the head of the teacher’s union in Austin, Education Austin. He says he would like to see other districts across the state follow Waco’s example.

Zarafis says new legislation is necessary to get teaching back into the classroom while removing the heavy focus on testing.

“I do not think the STAAR test should supersede teaching and learning,” he said.

STAAR testing continues this week.

Statement from Waco ISD:

“Waco ISD created a STAAR test “refusal form” for documentation purposes.

Waco ISD’s main focus this week is on the thousands of students who are taking state required examinations. That said, not offering meaningful educational activities to the students whose parents have refused testing would be a disservice.”

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