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STAAR Opting Out – Year 2 – The Beginning

ban staar

Well, it’s that time of year again.  The dumpster fire of steaming feces that is STAAR is upon us again.

This will be my son’s second year where his school is administering the STAAR and unlike last year, because it’s 4th grade, the window for this assessment will take more than a single week.

As a dual working family with limited vacation, a great deal of which I already have to burn for ARD meetings and school holidays that are not aligned to work holidays, the stress I’ve been feeling going into this season of STAAR has been rather palpable.

The writing STAAR is next week, April 9th to be exact.  The make up sessions are April 10-11.  The math portion is Monday, May 13th and reading is Tuesday, May 14th.  Make up days are currently scheduled, according to the TEA, for May 13-17.

Side note: the school principal had promised me the make up dates for the writing portion.  Funny, I’ve yet to receive that, and yes, I have that promise recorded.

Anyway, 8 days of school is a lot to hold a child out of school and for us it’s either a lot of time off or a lot of money in babysitters.  While I can and will arrange doctor’s appointments to cover those days so they are excused, 8 days is still too much.

So, what does one do?

Write “REFUSED” on the assessment.

This takes a lot of strength from the child, and I firmly believe not every child can pull this off.  I had a long chat with my son specifically about how this might play out.  I’ve warned him that they’re going to say a lot to make him take the assessment; things like, you’re going to be in trouble, we’ll take your recess away, you MUST do this, you will fail, your mom called and said it’s ok, you’ll be suspended, you’ll get detention, you’re going to sit here for 4 hours regardless, etc.  I’ve warned him that numerous people could approach him and say this to him up to and including the principal, who physically speaking is a very intimidating man, if you’re the kind of person who is easily intimidated (note that I most definitely am not).

Admittedly I have been undecided on how I’m going to handle this exactly with the school.  Am I going to send them a letter reminding them that we’re opting out but that my son will be there on make up days and will willingly go to the testing room, will write REFUSED on the booklet and then must immediately be released to return to class?  Then I read this:

Please Set Your Password

I love  It is amazingly helpful.  If you have not yet discovered it and you are opting out, I highly recommend checking it out.

So my plan is to send my opt out letter the day before the writing administration.  I will inform the school that indeed my son will be there on make up days, but has a secret password only known by us and that I expect them to respect my parental rights, my authority over my child, and that I expect my 10 year old child to be treated with respect and allowed to return to class without issue.

As a mother I hate putting my child in situations like this where he must stand up for himself like this, but as funny as that sentence reads, let me explain.

Should he stand up for himself in all situations?  Yes absolutely!  Should I coddle him and not let him learn how to stand up for himself?  Absolutely not!

This is different though.

Opting out of the STAAR is me standing up against a tyrannical system that I feel is immoral that is administering a vastly unfair assessment on my dyslexic child where the odds of success are stacked against him.  I do not approve of sacrificing real teaching to teaching to this ridiculous assessment, which is what is happening.  I do not approve of our schools and school districts being scored on this, yet again, ridiculous assessment, yet that is what is happening.  I do not approve of our teachers and students being punished as a result of this, one more time, ridiculous assessment, yet that is exactly what is happening.  The stress put on our students and teachers is indescribable, but I can’t fall down that rabbit hole here or I’ll write for days on end.

So then what is this and why is it different?

This is in fact is an adult of sound mind who happens to be fully informed of my and my child’s legal rights standing against a corrupt system and telling them not only no but hell no.  This is me refusing to allow them to put my child through the rigors of an assessment I firmly believe to be immoral and unethical.  This is a well informed parent, not afraid of the system or anyone in it, standing up and saying “NO! NOT MY CHILD!  NOT NOW!  NOT EVER!”

And at the end of the day, that’s my fight, not my son’s.  At 10 years old, while he understands a great deal, this is big people stuff, not kid stuff.  To them he’s a pawn, a number, a statistic, an automaton with no personality expected to perform to a false standard that few can meet.  To me, he’s my everything, and I have a God given charge to protect him to the best of my ability; so this is me protecting him, while at the same time sending him into the fray expecting him to trust me and stand firm.

But what I love is that my son knows he doesn’t have to take this assessment, and he really knows that his mom has his back and I will always stand up for him against injustice.  He knows this assessment is stupid in every conceivable way, and believe me when I say stupid is a really bad word in my house equal to the f word so when I say the word “stupid” I am in fact cursing.

What hurts me is that last year I could keep him home every day, but this year I must ask a 10 year old to fight in an adult battle.  I must ask him to have courage, be brave, not be afraid and trust me.  I must ask the adults in his school to respect my wishes and not be cruel to him and HOPE that they honor my request, which hurts my heart because I do not actually believe they will honor my request and I fear they will bully him.  Then, to top it off, I must pray he has the strength to put up with it, all the while knowing the second he tells me of any inappropriate treatment, that I’ll deal with it, but that it could make for a very long day for him.  I must ask my 10 year old to be courageous in a ridiculous situation contrived by adults in a corrupt system where he means nothing more to them than a number on a spreadsheet.

So yes, this year’s opting out is stressful, but we’re doing it.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

To the naysayers:

Before anyone jumps all over me, if that’s what you want to do then let me tell you I’m not going to listen.  My son understands his dyslexia better than I do, or his father, or anyone out there that may feel obligated to chastise me.  We push his limits every single day.  He works harder than anyone I know anywhere in any position, every single day.  And for those who say testing is a good thing, I agree, to a degree, but not standardized testing and definitely not the STAAR. 

So quick question to those who think standardized testing is a good thing, other than the SAT or possibly any grad school ABC exams you took, when was the last time you took an assessment like that?  When was the last time you filled in a scan tron?  Don’t even begin to tell me that work is about tests because where are you working that this statement is even remotely true?

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