Weatherford Democrat

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April 20, 2014

Is opting out an option?

Parents testing school districts, TEA by keeping children home on STAAR days

By SALLY SEXTON

One local parent has taken it upon herself to make her voice heard.

Michelle Osterkamp, who has two children attending Mary Martin Elementary, began to research the opt-out method after talking with some of her teacher friends.

“One of [my friends] posted a link to an article online about the state of education, public funding and it mentioned opting out,” Osterkamp said. “I was curious so I did a little research and came across the Facebook page for Texas State Parents Opt-Out and contacted them.”

By “opting out,” Osterkamp kept her children home during Weatherford ISD’s first round of State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) testing earlier this month. She made the announcement through a written letter addressed to the Martin principal and assistant principal as well as members of the Weatherford ISD school board.

The movement is growing across Texas with hundreds, even thousands, of parents opting to keep their children from taking the STAAR test.

“Section 26 of the Education Code is very clear — parents are not entitled to remove their child from a class or activity to avoid testing,” Texas Education Agency spokesperson Lauren Callahan said. “And by law, any time a child shows up for class on a testing day, the district is required to offer the test. It’s what we’re instructing districts to do.

“If a child refuses to take the test, we’re leaving it up to the districts as to what they do [with that student on testing day]. The Education Code is not clear on that because it also says they are not supposed to opt out of a test.”

Testing at the fifth and eighth grade levels is more structured, as those grades have promotional requirements attached to passing math and reading tests, said Callahan.

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