Sunday, February 14, 2021

Texas representatives request formal opt-out process for in-person STAAR test

Many thanks to Texas State Representative Diego Bernal for his outstanding leadership in creating an opt-out option from STAAR testing for Texas students this Spring. It's amazing that this should have even been questioned to begin with. Here's a related article titled, "Students learning remotely won't have to take STAAR test, Texas education chief says," where the Commissioner states, albeit begrudgingly, that this option is actually available to all children and families. Yes, all.

We can at least say that this would be the year to opt your kid out of testing. My children opted out for several years each at the elementary grade levels. They marched to the capitol and protested the test, testified in the legislature—with our older daughter, Clara, writing a letter to then-President George W. Bush. He did write back to her which was admittedly cool. 

Our children have grown up in a virtuous and righteous movement for fair and valid assessment that has been on point since day one in seeking to eliminate high-stakes testing, on the one hand, and to advocate for meaningful assessment, on the other.

I will continue posting related items, however, the best source of information on this policy agenda and conversation on a day-to-day basis is Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessments. If you're on Twitter, another similarly excellent resource is the Texas Legislative Equity Coalition @TxTLEEC. Also, try to attend an upcoming Tuesday, February 16, 2021 TLEEC Town Hall on Assessment. Register here to attend.

Now we are tasked here in Texas with establishing a humane, meaningful, and research-based system of assessment. To get us to go solidly in this direction, let's all lend our support to Texas State Representative Mary Gonzalez' House Bill 1867 that creates a Texas Commission on Assessment and Accountability.

I also want to extend a shout out to my masters and doctoral students who are working hard and focused on the matter:  Lauren Shook; Trae Madrigal, Eliza Epstein, Julia Hernandez, Patricia Nuñez, Nichole Bennett, Maria Unda, Lizeth Lizarraga, Samantha Boiser, and Lesley Rivas. Hope I didn't miss anybody.

Mark your calendars for February 26, 2021 at 12:00PM for a TCEP Brown Bag on High Stakes Testing and Accountability, featuring Representative Gonzalez and Vice-President Theresa Treviño of TAMSA will discuss, among other things, the policy intent of HB 1867 (Zoom link, TBA).

Stay tuned!

-Angela Valenzuela

Texas representatives request formal opt-out process for in-person STAAR test

Texas state representatives sent a letter to the Texas Education Agency Monday morning requesting a formal opt-out process for the STAAR exam.

HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Fighting for their constituents, Texas state representatives sent a letter to the Texas Education Agency Monday morning requesting a formal opt-out process for the STAAR exam.

The effort was led by Rep. Diego Bernal, who represents District 123 in San Antonio.

According to the letter, representatives are still asking the TEA to reconsider canceling the exam. If that doesn’t happen, they feel a formal process to opt-out would at least make parents feel more comfortable.

District 45 Rep. Erin Zwiener, who represents Hays and Blanco Counties, was one of 67 representatives across the state who signed the letter to back Bernal.

“I join Rep. Bernal in wishing that TEA would request a waiver and not give the test this year,” Zwiener said. “But failing that, we at least need to make clear to panicked parents that their kids will not be penalized.”

Hays Consolidated Independent School District parent Priscilla Cerda feels taking the test in person would be too dangerous. She’s especially on edge, saying her entire family got sick with COVID-19 after her kids started going back to school in person. They’re still recovering at home.

“We can’t have big crowds, but now that it’s STAAR testing time, they’re saying let’s bring this big crowd and have everyone together, and that’s supposed to be ok?,” Cerda said.

Zwiener said representatives would like the TEA to reach out to parents and school districts.

“I think what that looks like is parents being notified they have a choice, and that they can either bring their students to school on a certain day, or that they can send back a form that they can opt out,” Zwiener said. “That’s also very important for our school districts for planning purposes.”

Zwiener said they’re also making this request on behalf of school districts.

“School districts have no idea if they will be penalized if a large number of their students opt-out this year,” she said.

Cerda said the relief would be nice, as times are already stressful enough.

“I don’t understand why they want to do that to them,” Cerda said.

KXAN reached out to the TEA for comment on the letter representatives sent and have not heard back yet.

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