Skip to main content

March: STAAR Opt-Out: Does such a thing really exist?

Posted Date: 03/18/2024

March: STAAR Opt-Out: Does such a thing really exist?

Superintendent’s Blog- March, 2024
Topic: “STAAR Opt-Out: Does such a thing really exist?”

You know, they say that East Texas can have four seasons all in a 24-hour period. We’ve seen some pretty rapid changes to our weather from one week to another or even one day to another. If you ask one of our 4th grade students to name the seasons, they may tell you, ‘deer, squirrel, dove, duck, etc.’. Well, another season is on the horizon and that is, ‘STAAR season’. I can already see the infamous eye-rolls, nervous twitching, and needle on the blood pressure ‘barometer’ rising.

Recently, there have been social media posts shared around the state regarding ‘opting out’ of STAAR. This is nothing new, we get several questions each year about this and hear rumors of major changes in testing protocol. So, I felt the need to address this topic. (Truthfully, I sometimes struggle to find topics that I think you may be interested in, but I do hope that you find them somewhat educational or interesting.) Ironically, the ‘opt-out’ question is extremely popular every year. Somehow though, the Texas Education Agency has not quite felt it to be such a common question to include it in their FAQs (frequently asked questions) on their State Assessment website. Or, they just don’t really want to publicly provide information directly on this topic. So, let me break it down in a rather simple form. Just remember…I’m just the messenger. 

The truth is…no ‘opt-out’ provision exists. Parents can’t just simply sign a form that is acceptable to the State of Texas for STAAR exemption. Some schools have advertised an optional form they are using to address parent concerns with their child’s participation in the assessment process. Most of these forms will never use the phrase ‘opt-out,’ or the school could likely get itself into a little bind. Rather, they call it what it really is: “Refusal to Participate”. In other words, schools can’t ‘force’ children into taking any assessment. If the test is offered and refused, there could be some consequences that everyone must be aware of.

Texas law requires districts to offer the state assessments to all eligible students. The tests are no longer given on a single day of the year, but rather during a ‘window’ of time. So, if a student misses the day to take the test, they must be given the opportunity on another day, continuing as needed for the length of the testing window. In essence, one can’t just be absent from testing. (There is another story behind this change.)

So, if a student refuses to test, or if a parent notifies the district in writing (form or no form) to refuse the assessment, the test is required to be submitted to the state with a ‘score code’ indicating the test is being submitted for scoring…which will be of course a ‘zero’. This has some consequences, but hang on before going through the roof. At one time, failing a state assessment could generally lead to mandatory retention at a grade level. This is no longer the case. The STAAR assessment score is and should be, just one small portion of data that should be analyzed for measuring a student’s overall progress. If a student fails the test, which includes refusal to participate, the campus is required to provide a specified number of hours of remediation as outlined in new legislation (HB 1416 (formerly HB 4545)). Here, there are some options for parents to ‘opt out’. Keep in mind that the student’s score will always be in their educational records, though. So far, I’ve only given enough information to make you scratch your head. Please keep reading.

Let’s fast-forward to high school, but slam on the brakes with this topic. High school students take five STAAR-EOC assessments that are REQUIRED for graduation. Yep, while there is just a smidgen of flexibility here, failure to make acceptable scores will lead to the denial of a diploma. Again, this is law, not a school decision. When I mentioned the ‘smidgen’ of flexibility, the law does allow students to possibly take an alternate assessment, but these include the SAT, ACT, and AP content exams that are…well, just say significantly more difficult than any STAAR-EOC. Where there may not seem to be huge consequences during the younger years for refusing to test, this notion will keep a student from graduating.

There are a few things I want you to take away from this discussion. First, STAAR does NOT define your child. It is an assessment taken on one day of the year (per subject) to provide the district with some indication of educational progress in the subject matter. Our district uses STAAR data as only a fraction of the total academic evaluation of each child. It can play a significant role in helping us make teaching and learning better if there are specific content areas needing additional focus. Secondly, testing will always be part of our student and adult lives. We can’t opt out of testing for our driver’s license, many jobs, and several other adulting privileges. Lastly, TEA punishes districts for low scores by giving an A-F rating, requiring them to use their financial resources (which are pretty slim) and time to focus specifically on STAAR outcomes, and giving a potentially false perception of the district’s effectiveness.

Most of us probably agree that all schools should have some form of accountability system. I believe that. However, I also believe that the current system is not effective in providing a true measure of school success. With that, it makes sense that I do not believe that STAAR defines your child as stated previously. This is one assessment…given on one day whether your child is working at his/her best or not for any reason…and nothing that one should lose sleep over. With that said, I KNOW we have a very small percentage of students who may have some legitimate reason not to take an assessment. While these numbers are minuscule, I do feel the need to include that statement. Kids are not just numbers themselves; they are people, real humans with real feelings and potentially fragile.

If we teach the curriculum standards as outlined by the Texas Education Agency, there is no reason to worry about STAAR. If we are assessing learning using a multitude of methods, there is no reason one should be anxious about taking a STAAR test. It’s just another day to shine. Give it all we can and sleep well knowing we have all done our best. If you have questions regarding the required state assessment system, please feel free to reach out to your school principal, counselor, myself, or TEA’s website.

As always, feel free to reach out. Give me topics you may be interested in. Or, simply let me know if these are helpful or not. You can always reach me at
Until next time, 

May God bless you all.