Reasons to Opt Out

Reasons to Boycott STAAR Testing

  1. Support meaningful curriculum, including the arts, ethnic studies, and civics
  2. Support limited, low-stakes diagnostic testing but NOT high-stakes standardized testing. High stakes testing is used to fire teachers, close schools and shame children. Low stakes testing does not penalize anyone and is used to know how a student is learning and is limited in its use so as to allow for meaningful instruction.
  3. Support valid reliable systems to evaluate teachers (not STAAR)
  4. Support allocating resources so our schools have nurses, counselors and librarians again
  5. Oppose inequality and racism in our schools
  6. Oppose the high cost of standardized testing.
  7. 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 pause on using student test scores to retain students or to evaluate teachers.
  8. Assessments are best able to support student learning when written by those closest to the students--their teachers.

Goals

  • COVID GOALS: Suspend STAAR and associated accountability through 2022
  • STATE LEGISLATURE GOALS: Abolish the use of standardized test scores as a graduation requirement or for grade promotion. Abolish A-F School Accountability System. Limit standardized testing to no more than required by federal law. 
  • LOCAL GOALS: End the use of standardized test scores to evaluate teachers and principals in HISD. Reduce test prep to make room for meaningful instruction.

What is wrong with high stakes testing?

  • The high stakes testing culture is stressful at some schools, toxic and dehumanizing at others. This creates a bad environment for learning.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • It is not appropriate for many special education students and English language learners, who are required to take the same tests as other students. 
  • 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).
  • STAAR tests are disproportionately damaging to Black and Brown children from low socioeconomic backgrounds. In the past, STAAR test scores have been used to shut down schools in Black and Brown communities.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In the past, the state occasionally and randomly raising the passing standard. This means fewer children pass during those years. 

Opting out is a way to challenge bad policies. 

  • In 2016, the HISD School Board voted that STAAR scores should not be used to evaluate teachers. Tell them that STAAR scores should also not be used as the sole factor in evaluating principals.
  • A couple of years ago, HISD 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 (except during 2020-21.)
  • The governor 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.

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 Tx Capitol in Austin have not been enough to pressure HISD or the state of Texas to make changes.

Opting out is an act of "good trouble" 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 in 2015, 20% of students (over 200,000) were opted out of their state test. That December, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo cancelled the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers or retain students. 

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.

Sign up at bit.ly/optouttexas

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