Response to TEA Commissioner Mike Morath’s Announcement to Waive STAAR Consequences

The Committee to Stop STAAR and parent plaintiffs still expect to receive TEA’s response to lawsuit soon.

Continue to seek relief for all Texas students in grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 who were given invalid STAAR.

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Commissioner action raises new validity questions; leaves local districts directionless about use of scores for accountability ratings, teacher evaluations and other uses.

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AUSTIN – Yesterday, Commissioner of Education Mike Morath released a directive to Texas school administrators apologizing for ongoing failures and signaling the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has now lost faith in STAAR statewide.

In a massive victory for millions of parents and students across the State of Texas, the TEA has canceled the final round of the 2016 State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) for 5th & 8th grade students—doing so just eleven days prior to its scheduled administration and interrupting school district calendars everywhere. 

Based on the announcement, public school parents needs to know two important facts that may affect their children:

  1. Any 5th or 8th grade students who failed any Math or Reading STAAR this year are no longer compelled by state mandate to have “grade placement committees” (GPCs) or “accelerated instruction” such as summer school. 
  2. Local principals are ordered to use “local discretion” for promotion or retention decisions and to rely on information such as “recommendations from the teacher” and “the student’s grade in each subject.”

Regarding the pending litigation, The Committee to Stop STAAR and the parent plaintiffs in Lewis, et al. v. Morath continue to look forward to receiving the TEA’s response to the lawsuit’s original petition. The agency’s response is due to the Travis County District Court within a matter of days. Stakeholders expect to hold the commissioner and his agency accountable for ignoring state law by refusing to redesign the test for the age-appropriate lengths dictated by the Texas Legislature and expect the relief that the TEA has started to be expanded by court order to include all grades 3-8 as well as include protection for teachers, schools and taxpayer funds from the irreparable harm that would come by relying on invalid STAAR scores.

Furthermore, Scott Placek, Lead Counsel for the plaintiffs warns local school districts to immediately make voluntary all summer school and other accelerated instruction formerly required under the TEA mandates the commissioner has now vacated.

In a statement released yesterday, Mr. Placek’s firm states,

[We] urge local school districts not to take any punitive or remedial actions against 3rd through 8th grade students as a result of 2016 STAAR assessments.  Regardless of the Texas Education Agency’s stated reason for detaching consequences from the STAAR, the fact remains that these assessments did not comply with the completion time standards of HB 743 and as a result are not valid STAAR assessments. Any attempt by a district to mandate participation in accelerated instruction or take any punitive or remedial action against a student based on these assessment results would invite … [adding] the local district as a defendant.

Throughout the the day, school districts around the state have been announcing their plans for the remainder of their summer school schedules. Many are canceling any further instruction—a responsible action now that the practical goal of meeting state required processes leading up to a summer STAAR administration is no longer applicable.

The Committee to Stop STAAR was formed out of a grassroots fundraising campaign to raise funds supporting litigation against the TEA. Donors to the campaign are a diverse group of parents, grandparents, teachers and concerned citizens from around the state who demand action after the TEA ignored the common sense reforms that many felt they had won during last year’s legislative session. Fundraising began on March 30, 2016—the same week as the first administration of this year’s STAAR—with a GoFundMe campaign (gofundme.com/StopSTAAR) that has since raised over $20,000 from 260 donors. On the way to a fundraising goal of $25,000, donations have ranged from $5 to $5,000 dollars and have come from every corner of the state. The fundraising has even included a matching grant from the Houston Federation of Teachers which supports protecting teachers and schools from negative outcomes justified by illegal STAAR scores. 

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An Open Letter to Texas Commissioner of Education, Mike Morath Re: Recent Letter to School Administrators

Arnold & Placek Responds to TEA Announcement on 2016 STAAR