Reasons to Boycott STAAR Testing
CVPE SUPPORTS low stakes diagnostic testing and are OPPOSED to high stakes testing such as the STAAR.
Reasons to Opt Out of STAAR
- Oppose endlesss benchmark tests ("snapshots") that take huge chunks out of instructional time.
- Support classroom assessments written, chosen and administered by the classroom teacher. This can support meaningful instruction in ways standardized testing cannot.
- Support a rich curriculum - teachers are incentivized (or forced) to teach only what could be on the tests. Art, music, PE, writing, science, and social studies get pushed to the side.
- Oppose a hostile test prep culture reduces students to data points, ignoring their real needs
- Oppose the use of scores to justify closing schools in low income neighborhoods, punishing students for the effects of poverty
- Oppose the use of STAAR to evaluate teachers. Scores are statistically invalid and unreliable measures of student, teacher, and school progress (according to The American Statistical Association).
- Opt Out works. It gives parents and communities a powerful voice to demand an end to the test prep culture. In 2015, after New York State parents opted 20% of New York students out of their state tests, New York established a four-year moratorium on using student test scores to retain students or to evaluate teachers.
- While low stakes diagnostic testing is a meaningful component of a world class education, high stakes testing does grave harm to our schools.
What's wrong with high stakes testing?
1.) STAAR tests are poorly written and developmentally inappropriate. Try some sample STAAR third grade math questions.
2.) The American Statistical Association has shown the tests to be invalid and unreliable measures, yet they continue to be used to make high stakes decisions about students (retention/promotion), teachers (retention/compensation), and schools (closure).
3.) Teachers are pressured or forced to teach test prep almost every single instructional day, and children spend countless hours taking benchmarks, snapshots, and practice tests to prepare for STAAR.
4.) A rich curriculum which includes the arts encourages creativity, analytical thinking, and complex problem solving. By contrast, a narrow test prep curriculum relies on multiple choice tests which elicit shallow, black and white thinking.
5.) STAAR tests are inappropriate for many special education students and English language learners, who are required to take the same tests as other students.
6.) STAAR tests are disproportionately damaging to Black and Brown children from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Schools that primarily serve these students are pressured to spend inordinate amounts of time on test prep for fear that test scores will be used as an excuse to close these neighborhood schools down.
7.) Texas spent almost half a billion dollars from 2010–2015 on STAAR testing alone. Local schools and districts have most likely spent an additional half billion on test prep material, benchmark tests, etc. Spending this much on testing takes away resources needed to ensure that our schools have an adequate number of nurses, counselors, librarians, social workers, and teachers.
8.) When your child takes a standardized test like STAAR or uses computer programs to prepare for it, there is a strong possibility that his or her personal data are sold to or accessed by companies without your knowledge or permission.
9.) For no solid pedagogical reason, the state occasionally and randomly raises STAAR passing standards for some academic years. This means that fewer children pass during those years and that one year's pass or fail cannot be compared to another year's pass or fail. (Read about last year's higher passing thresholds.) Recent changes in state math standards brought 6th grade level standards down to the 4th grade over the course of a year.
10.) Last year's STAAR tests were illegal, and this year's are questionable. TEA ignored the new requirements in state law HB 743 for the 2015-2016 school year: they refused to shorten the tests for grades 3-5 and grade 7 as the law required. They also tried to avoid having the assessments independently validated to assure that they were age-appropriate. Eventually, they had a company evaluate the tests, and they were not found to measure what they said they did. And only after a class action lawsuit by Texas parents did they shorten the tests.
11.) The high stakes testing culture is stressful at some schools, toxic and dehumanizing at others. Neither is an ideal environment for learning.
Opting out is a way to call attention to local HISD policies that should change. Write to the HISD School Board expressing concerns about the following:
- The HISD School Board recently voted that STAAR scores should not be used to evaluate teachers. Thank them for this, and urge them to make sure word of this gets out to teachers and principals. Tell them that STAAR scores should also not be used as the sole factor in evaluating principals.
- HISD recently indefinitely suspended the use of STAAR as a promotion standard in grades 3, 4, 6 and 7. Let HISD know that any permanent policy they develop should simply use grades and attendance as its only promotion requirement. Note that the state still requires that STAAR be a promotion standard at grades 5 and 8.
- HISD should not use test scores as an excuse to close schools. It should instead support struggling schools and seek to make them better by implementing the community schools model.
Instead, standardized testing should be limited, should be low stakes and used only for diagnostic purposes. Assessments are best able to support student learning when written by those closest to the students--their teachers.
Why not just write a letter or call your elected official?
You SHOULD do that, but unfortunately, thus far, letters and calls and showing up en masse to School Board meetings and at the capitol building in Austin have not been enough to pressure HISD or the state of Texas to make changes.
Opting out is an act of civil disobedience to reclaim our schools by opposing high stakes testing. Opting out cannot be ignored because it hits the testing industry and the corporate education reformers where it hurts. (Read about corporate education reform and its effects on your child's school here and here.)
Opt Out works
It gives parents and communities a powerful bargaining tool when our voices are otherwise ignored. In New York State last spring, 20% of students (over 200,000) were opted out of their state test. That December, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was forced to establish a four-year moratorium on using student test scores to retain students or to evaluate teachers. Empowered by their victory, New York parents fight on.
Together, we can do the same. We are not opting out just to opt out. We are opting out to ensure that every child in every community has access to a safe, humane, high quality, free public education. Opt out, for your child and for everyone's.
- Texas Parents' Educational Rights Network
- 12 Reasons to Opt Your Child Out of Testing
Opt Out Press
- HISD's attempts to bully opt out children backfire
- CVPE provides off-campus learning to opt out children
- Houston mother opts out in HISD. You can too.
- Another parent opts out and the school is supportive
- Chronicle article about another parent opting out