The HISD School Board approved a policy on Thursday that recognizes the Opt Out movement and states that Opt Out children will not receive negative consequences for their parents' decision to refuse the STAAR assessment.
The new policy has some very real shortcomings and demonstrates a lack of understanding of Texas State law. But the fact that it came before the Board at all shows that HISD is taking Opt Out very seriously.
During the Board meeting, Board President Rhonda Skillern-Jones stated that she was considering opting her own child out of STAAR this year.
Why Opt Out?
Opt Out is a form of civil disobedience, a protest against the misuse of standardized testing data to assess and punish students, teachers, and schools. In HISD, test scores are used to make high stakes decisions about students (retention/promotion), teachers (evaluations/retention/compensation), and schools (closure).
The Opt Out movement objects to the stranglehold that high stakes testing has on our children's education. It also protests the inequality that high stakes testing perpetuates for poor children, children of color, children who are English language learners, and children with special needs.
Opt Out is NOT a protest against testing in and of itself. It is NOT an attempt to shield our children from difficulty. We want our children to be challenged. We do not want them to spend the vast majority of their school year preparing for a test. And we do not want their data used to harm their classmates, their teachers, and their schools.
How HISD Should Respond to Opt Out
HISD has invested in test prep at the expense of a rich curriculum and precious instructional time, and instead of investing in teachers, librarians, and counselors.
HISD goes beyond even what Texas law requires with the way it uses STAAR data. By opting out, we urge HISD to
- eliminate STAAR as a promotion standard in grades not required by the state: 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th
- limit standardized testing and use it only for diagnostic purposes
- not use STAAR scores to evaluate teachers
- not use STAAR scores as an excuse to close schools
- not use STAAR scores as the main criterion for magnet school applications
Classroom tests should be written by the students' teachers. Classes should center on inquiry, real-world application and meaningful assessment, not endless test prep and scripted instruction.
CVPE Opt Out Parents in the News
Patrick Michels, The Texas Observer, Nov. 12, 2015
"In Texas, Houston ISD has historically been one of the most enthusiastic adopters of data-driven reward and punishment. That makes the opt-out movement particularly powerful in HISD — in great enough numbers, parents can deprive the district of the test data upon which it’s come to rely."
HISD Sets Process for Opting Out of Tests
Ericka Mellon, The Houston Chronicle, Nov. 13, 2015
"[Board President Rhonda] Skillern-Jones, who voted against the policy, said she believed the district should provide instruction to the students whose parents opt them out, as schools would do if the child did not attend a field trip or a holiday party because of religious objections."
What does Houston ISD’s standardized test ‘opt out’ vote mean for the rest of Texas?
Sharon Grigsby, The Dallas Morning News, Nov. 13, 2015
"I do know this: Don’t underestimate the power of these parents to bring bigger change than what they’ve done so far in Houston."