Weatherford parent challenging STAAR test by encouraging 'opt out'

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by JIM DOUGLAS

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaajdouglas

WFAA

Posted on April 21, 2014 at 5:19 PM

Updated Monday, Apr 21 at 5:19 PM

WEATHERFORD -- Michelle Osterkamp just launched a website called "Weatherford Parents Opt Out."

It's just what she did. When it came time for STAAR testing this month at Mary Martin Elementary, she opted out, and kept her two sons home.

"I don't want to do this, but I have to,” Osterkamp said. “I have to do it."

But the Texas Education Agency says she can’t. According to the TEA, “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.”

"It's teaching to the test, and that's wrong,” Osterkamp said. “That's not what public education should be about."

Osterkamp said she's not against standardized tests and does want her kids in public schools, but it's not fair that third and fifth graders must pass the STAAR to be promoted.

“This is doing a disservice to the kids,” she said. “They get burned out. They get sad. They get nervous. They get sick."

And she says it's not fair to judge teachers by STAAR results, either -- especially when performance is linked to pay. She thinks other parents also will opt out once they see they're not alone.

"People are very nervous because they don't like what's going on, but they've been convinced they have no power," she said. She hopes the website empowers parents.

Osterkamp said Weatherford school administrators give her no reason to believe her sons will be held back for skipping the STAAR. She said they’re good students. and that she discussed her desire to take a stand with them.

District officials declined to comment.

If nothing else, schools can form grade placement committees to make the promotion decision. But the TEA says those committees are supposed to be a fallback for a child who tests poorly, not a child who doesn’t test at all.

A TEA spokeswoman said opting out is so rare that it has not become an issue.

Fort Worth ISD echoes that. A spokesman said the tests are mandatory, and that the district has heard from no parents who plan to challenge that.

E-mail jdouglas@wfaa.com

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