Diego Bernal, other Bexar County state reps, ask TEA for STAAR opt-out process

SAN ANTONIO – Dozens of Texas state representatives, led by San Antonio Democrat Diego Bernal, asked the Texas Education Agency to allow Texas parents to opt their children out of STAAR testing this year.

The annual standardized testing is still expected to take place in person, though it will carry fewer consequences this year. Citing the risk of COVID-19 transmission and high percentage of students participating in remote learning, Bernal sent a letter to TEA Commissioner Mike Morath on Monday requesting a way for students to skip the testing.

“Since it is evident that the the Agency has no plans to seek the federal waivers necessary to cancel to the 2020-2021 administration of the STAAR, something we strongly believe the Agency should reconsider, at a minimum it should allow students and their families the opportunity to opt-out of the exam,” Bernal wrote.

The letter was signed by 68 state representatives in all, including all 10 from Bexar County.

Speaking to KSAT, Bernal noted this year’s testing will matter less than usual. The testing requirements for fifth and eighth grade students to advance have been waived, and the TEA will not use the A-F grading system for schools.

“The idea of forcing students to go in to take a test that doesn’t count just strikes me -- and I think a lot of other people -- as unnecessary,” Bernal told KSAT.

Bernal said parents could already opt-out in a fashion by keeping their children out of school.

“It’s not like they can go and drag your kid and bring them into the campus,” Bernal said.

The state representative noted skipping the test without an official opt-out process could still affect a student’s absences and possibly even how much funding their school gets.

“What we’re asking for is to clean all that up, not count it against the student or the school, and just say, ‘When parents opt out, it’s just a wash,’” Bernal said.

However, while Bernal believes there wouldn’t be any academic consequence for simply skipping the test without an official opt-out process, that may not actually be the case.

Barry Perez, the spokesman for the county’s largest school district, Northside ISD, told KSAT the TEA has not waived the requirements for end-of-course (EOC) assessments. Passing the EOCs are a graduation requirement for high school students, he said, and missing them “could certainly slow down your ability to graduate.”

“And so, the next test administration, you would be given another opportunity to take those EOC assessments -- those retests.”

“The only other academic consequence would be we don’t have assessment data for you,” Perez said of students in other grades. “We have no way to really provide a baseline of data to kind of determine your progress, actual learning loss, those kinds of things.”

As of Monday evening, the TEA had not responded to KSAT’s request for comment.

About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.