Standardized Testing Information
1. What standardized tests are required in Texas public schools?
- Math, annually in grades 3 through 8;
- Reading, annually in grades 3 through 8;
- Writing, including spelling and grammar, in grades 4 and 7;
- Social Studies in grade 8
- Science in grades 5 and 8; and
- End-of-course assessments for English I, English II, Algebra I, Biology and U.S History
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) publishes detailed information about STAAR testing. (Texas Education Code chapter 39 and 19; Texas Administrative Code chapter 101)
Benchmark Testing: A “benchmark” test is a locally-required assessment instrument designed to prepare students for a corresponding state-administered assessment
instrument. A school district may not administer more than two benchmark tests to prepare students for the related state-administered assessment. Tex. Educ. Code § 39.0263. In addition, a district may not administer locally-required benchmark tests on more than ten percent of the instructional days in any school year. District campus-level planning and decision-making committees may limit the percentage of instructional days available for benchmark testing to ten percent or less. (Tex. Educ. Code § 39.0262)
2. If a parent has concerns about his/her child taking a STAAR exam, what should he/she do first?
If parents have concerns about their child taking a STAAR exam(s), their first step should be to meet with the campus principal to discuss their concerns. In most cases, concerns regarding testing can be resolved based upon a conversation. We can often provide information that alleviates some concerns and addresses possible misconceptions. We strongly encourage this conversation to happen as early in the school year as possible so that we have the opportunity to work together to put the best possible plan in place for each of our students.
3. What does federal law say about opting out?
ESSA, like its predecessor, NCLB, requires districts to measure the achievement of at least 95 percent of all students. Under ESSA, schools that drop below the 95 percent could face consequences from the state. 20 U.S.C. § 6311(c)(4)(E).
Contrary to statements on some anti-testing websites, ESSA does not include a federal right to opt out of standardized assessments. These websites are likely referring to a provision in ESSA that requires districts to provide information to parents regarding the assessment, which may include, “where applicable,” the district’s opt-out policy. Because, as described below, an opt- out policy is not applicable in Texas, school districts in Texas do not need to provide parents with information on an opt-out policy. Districts must, however, provide parents with information regarding their children’s participation in the assessment. 20 U.S.C. § 6312(e)(2).
4. Is there a right to “opt out” of standardized tests in Texas public schools?
No, in fact just the opposite. State law makes it clear that students may not opt out of standardized or any other tests. Texas Education Code section 26.010 states:
EXEMPTION FROM INSTRUCTION. (a) A parent is entitled to remove the parent’s child temporarily from a class or other school activity that conflicts with the parent's religious or moral beliefs if the parent presents or delivers to the teacher of the parent’s child a written statement authorizing the removal of the child from the class or other school activity. A parent is not entitled to remove the parent’s child from a class or other school activity to avoid a test or to prevent the child from taking a subject for an entire semester.
(b) This section does not exempt a child from satisfying grade level or graduation requirements in a manner acceptable to the school district and the agency.
5. Can Forney ISD chose to opt-out students separate from TEA policy?
No. TEA has taken the position that local public school districts lack the authority to exempt a student from STAAR testing under Section 26.010.
5. What are the consequences of missing school on a testing date?
Makeup Tests: First, it is important to note that missing school on a single designated test date will not necessarily cause a student to miss his or her testing opportunity. Although districts publish a schedule of specific test dates for STAAR, most tests are administered within a testing “window” set by TEA. If a student who has been absent returns to school during the testing window, he or she may be asked to sit for the exam at that time. Makeup test dates are also scheduled (beyond the window) for most assessments.
Compulsory Attendance: Depending on the circumstances, a student may be subject to truancy prevention measures and a parent may commit the offense of contributing to nonattendance, if the student fails to attend school on 10 or more days or parts of days within a six-month period in the same school year or on three or more days or parts of days within a four-week period. (Tex. Educ. Code § 25.093; Tex. Fam. Code § 65.003)
By law, a school district is required to notify a student’s parent and seek a conference if the student has been absent from school without excuse on three days or parts of days within a four-week period.
The notice must inform the parent of the following:
- It is the parent’s duty to monitor the student’s school attendance and require the student to attend school, and
- The student is subject to truancy prevention measures. (Tex. Educ. Code § 25.095.)
Like the state testing requirements, notice and enforcement of attendance laws are not optional for school districts.
Attendance for Credit: Failure to attend on a test date or during a testing window would also be taken into consideration for the purposes of the 90 percent attendance rule. A student in any grade K-12 may not receive credit or a final grade if the student attends class less than 90 percent of the days the class is offered, absent extenuating circumstances as determined by a local attendance committee or, in some cases, the campus principal in accordance with board policy. (Tex. Educ. Code § 25.092.)
6. What about being present but not testing?
All eligible students present at school on a test date must be included in the test administration. Campus officials must return a test booklet for every student, in accordance with TEA test administration guidelines.
Questions have arisen about whether a campus could allow a student who is present at school, but whose parent has indicated a desire to “opt out” of the test, to go to a supervised location other than the testing site to complete other schoolwork. A district considering offering this option should consult with its school attorney. At a minimum, the district should clarify for parents that waiting in an alternative location is not truly “opting out.” A booklet with a zero score must be submitted on behalf of the student, which might result in academic consequences for the student. In addition, the campus is obligated to maintain a secure test environment throughout the test administration in accordance with TEA test security requirements. Test security requirements may limit alternative locations or activities for students not taking the test.
7. What if a parent chooses to withdraw a child before a testing window with the intent of re-enrolling afterwards?
A parent who is withdrawing a child from enrollment is not seeking a temporary absence to avoid testing; instead, they are withdrawing from enrollment entirely. Even if the school district suspects that the parent is likely to reenroll, the district has no grounds to refuse to withdraw the child.
8. What is the consequence to a student for not completing standardized tests?
Promotion to the Next Grade: Grade advancement procedures are established by the Texas Education Code, regulations in 19 Texas Administrative Code chapter 101, and the Student Success Initiative Manual. Even when a student’s performance on a state assessment is not directly tied to grade promotion as described below, a student’s score on an applicable state assessment must be considered as a factor in promotion. Tex. Educ. Code § 28.021(c).
Promotion from Grades 5 and 8: In addition to local policy standards relating to grade advancement, students in grades 5 and 8 must pass the math and reading portions of the STAAR to be promoted. School districts are required to administer three testing opportunities for students who fail to meet satisfactory performance on these assessments. A student who does not pass the tests may advance to the next grade only if:
- the student has completed required accelerated instruction (tutoring); and
- the student’s grade placement committee, established at the student’s campus, determines by unanimous decision, in accordance with the standards for promotion established by the school board, that the student is likely to perform at grade level at the end of the next year. (19 Tex. Admin. Code §§ 101.2001(b), .2005)
High School Graduation: Students must pass the five end-of-course exams or an acceptable substitute in order to graduate, as described above. A student who does not perform satisfactorily on the STAAR test in no more than two courses may be permitted to graduate if an individual graduation committee determines the student is qualified to do so. By local policy, a school district may also issue a certificate of coursework completion to a student who successfully completes curriculum requirements but who fails required state assessment tests. Tex. Educ. Code §§ 28.025(d), .0258; 19 Tex. Admin. Code § 101.3022.
10. So what can a school district do to address the problems that are associated with opting out of standardized testing?
A student’s refusal to participate in required testing affects the campus’s accountability ratings by lowering the school’s participation and passing rates. When a campus’s accountability ratings go down, the entire community is affected.
Although pressuring a parent is usually unproductive, the school may be able to initiate discussion to address parental concerns. Stress-related concerns can sometimes be addressed by allowable accommodations, working with a counselor, or training teachers to provide stress reduction in the classroom. Ideally, districts and parents can partner to address concerns.
ESSA was passed, in part, to address the bipartisan consensus that federal accountability under NCLB overly emphasized standardized assessment. Although ESSA de-emphasized assessments and enhanced the statute’s flexibility, Texas continues to use standardized assessments in the state accountability system. In Texas, districts and campuses are tasked with working with parents to relieve the tension of standardized assessment while providing full and accurate accountability.