Keep your children home on the day of the STAAR Math test onApril 20 (Grades 5 & 8) and on April 21 (Grades 3, 4, 6, and 7).
In spring 2015, the STAAR math test cannot be used as a condition of promotion in grades 3-8 due to new curriculum standards.
This year parents and students in grades 3-8 can refuse the STAAR math test without threats of retention. Thus, parents have a unique opportunity to send a message to lawmakers and school districts in Texas that their children, teachers, and schools are not mere numbers derived from multiple-choice tests given on a single day.
Multiple-choice tests, such as STAAR, can only test a narrow range of educational outcomes. While Education “reformers” have argued that standardized tests, like the STAAR (State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness) are necessary for accountability, numerous organizations, including the American Educational Research Association, have concluded that these tests should not be used to make high-stakes decisions because they are neither reliable nor valid indicators of student learning.
Around the country there is a growing movement to boycott or “opt out” of high-stakes standardized tests. Parents and educators are concerned about:
The relentless hours devoted to testing and test-prep instruction
The narrowing of curriculum - less time devoted to science, social studies, music, art, and physical education
The cost of testing - the state of Texas has spent nearly half a billion dollars between 2010 and 2015 on STAAR (state) testing alone. This does not include the cost of test-prep materials and textbooks sold by Pearson, the same company that develops the tests. HISD students also take the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and district-wide benchmark tests at additional costs.
Tests that don’t measure the skills they want students to learn, including critical thinking, creativity, and complex problem solving
Tests that aren’t reliable are being used to make high-stakes decisions about students (promotion/retention), teachers (retention/compensation), and schools (“failing” or not)
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.
2014 saw tremendous increases in the number of parents opting their children out of state tests. In New York, more than 50,000 students opted out of one or both tests (students are tested in English Language Arts and math). In some high-performing districts, the majority of students opted out. More recently, 17% of Colorado seniors boycotted the new state test.
While Texas and HISD have made it more difficult for parents to opt out of the STAAR (state) tests, it has been done. Last spring parents in at least 30 districts in Texas (including HISD) refused to allow their children to take the STAAR tests.
The state of Texas requires students to pass the STAAR tests in 5th and 8th grades in order to be promoted without attending summer school. HISD has expanded this requirement to include all students in grades 3-8. In the past, parents often had to jump through numerous hoops to ensure that their children would be promoted without a STAAR score (5th and 8th grade). For the current school year, the Texas Education Agency has decreed that the STAAR math test cannot be used as a condition of promotion in grades 3-8 due to new curriculum standards. This year parents and students in grades 3-8 can refuse the math test without threats of retention. Parents may need to keep their children home for the one day of testing. There will be no make up test dates for the Math STAAR in grades 3-8, meaning no more than one day’s absence.
Boycott the STAAR test. Send a message to lawmakers and school districts that children are not mere numbers. Children deserve a rich curriculum, not a test-prep curriculum.
Keep your children home on the day of the STAAR Math test. Parents have the power to end this testing frenzy.
April 20: Grades 5 and 8
April 21: Grades 3, 4, 6, and 7
Retired teacher and administrator
Member of Community Voices for Public Education