A Baylor University assistant dean and her husband who is the coordinator of curriculum for Texas State Technical College in Waco have gone public with their request to opt their child out of having to take the STAAR test. And they want other parents to join them.
Kyle and Jennifer Massey are professional educators. Kyle is a former school teacher and now the coordinator of curriculum at Texas State Technical College in Waco. Jennifer is an assistant dean at Baylor. As much as they value learning, they say they are morally and ethically opposed to standardized testing, or the STAAR test, and the extensive preparation for it. They don't want their 4th grade son William to participate.
"Parents are being told that their parental rights no longer exist in the context of state testing and that's unacceptable," said Jennifer Massey.
The couple wrote a letter to their son's elementary school principal stating their case. William is scheduled to begin testing on Tuesday. The Masseys also posted their letter on their blogs, Facebook and Twitter. They say they got 30 thousand hits within the first 48 hours.
View the letter here: http://kyledmassey.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/opt-out-letter.pdf
"My inbox is flooded. I have to clear it out every 15-20 minutes," Jennifer said. "Parents from across the state are thanking us for stepping out and speaking about this issue and raising attention to it."
Texas Education Code allows parents to remove their child temporarily from instruction or activities that conflict with the parents' religious or moral belief with written request.
It does not allow removal to avoid a test or exempt the child from satisfying a grade level.
"We're not against tests," said Kyle. "In fact, it's possible standardized tests can be useful in moderation, it's the excessive use of standardized tests and the fact that the curriculum is structured only around them. That is problematic for us."
The Masseys sent a similar request letter to their son's school last year. They were told they'd have to keep him out of school for four days while the STAAR test was administered. They did. They don't want to do that again this year.
"We want William to be able to attend school all week and receive instruction," said Jennifer.
Waco ISD responded to the Masseys request late Wednesday. While they say they cannot exempt William from the test, they will provide him with meaningful activities to complete in a non-testing room.
Read the response letter here: http://kyledmassey.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/wacoisd-response.pdf
William won't be held back for not taking the test. According to the Texas Education Agency, the STAAR test is only a requirement for promotion out of 5th and 8th grades.
If those students opt out, they will be retained unless the child's parents appeal and a committee agrees to promote.
The couple is moving ahead and on Saturday will host an information session for other parents at their home.
"I encourage others to take this action. The time has come. This craziness started in Texas. It should end in Texas," said Jennifer.
The Texas Education Agency stands behind standardized testing. TEA Spokesperson Debbie Ratcliffe sent FOX 7 the following statement:
"Standardized testing programs help educators, parents and the general public determine whether students are learning the knowledge and skills expected in specific grades or subjects. Just as with teacher-made tests, the state mandated tests are based on the state curriculum. STAAR is testing students on material they are learning in class every day. By using those results in our school rating system, we can determine areas of strengths and weaknesses for schools and districts overall. Instruction can be retooled to beef up areas where students are struggling and that is beneficial to many students."
AISD recently sent a letter to staff regarding any opt out requests. Read it here: http://ftpcontent3.worldnow.com/ktbc/ktbcmisc/AISDtesting.pdf