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Can You Opt Your Child Out of Texas Standardized Tests?

Nathan Bernier/KUT
STAAR testing begins Monday, but some parents in Texas are choosing to keep their kids home as part of the growing Opt Out movement.

Standardized testing in Texas begins today and some parents across the state are choosing to opt their children out of the testing process.

Last week, a Waco family made news when they publicly told their school district they did not want their fourth grader taking the state tests because they were morally opposed to testing. 

Under state law, that's illegal. 

Texas law says students can be excused from certain tests and lessons if they conflict with moral or religious beliefs.

“But the very next sentence... in that statute says, quote, ‘a parent is not entitled to remove child from class or school activity to avoid a test or prevent child from taking subject for a semester,'" says Debbie Ratcliffe, spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency.

Although it's illegal, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. That could be because there are no specific repercussions for parents or students who do opt out.

Ratcliffe says there are some consequences—especially in fifth and eighth grade. Under state law, students must pass standardized tests in those grades to move on to the next grade. 

“If they don’t pass or don’t take the test then the child is retained," Ratcliffe says. "Unless the parent appeals the decision and then an appeal committee is convened and they look at the data and decide if child is promoted."

Ratcliffe says the stakes get even higher in high school when students must pass five end of course tests to get a diploma.

But Austin parent Edy Chamness has opted her child out of standardized tests for the past three years. She started the group Texas Parents Opt Out. Chamness says the school didn’t give her any problems when her child opted out of the fifth grade standardized tests.

“Well, they like to tell everyone that and 'parents don’t have rights' and 'parents don’t have choices,'" Chamness says. "If you don’t take the test it stays not scored. It doesn’t say that you failed the test.”

Chamness says she and her son’s teacher met and decided to promote him, even though he hadn’t taken the state test.

Neither the TEA nor Austin ISD tracks how many students opt out of standardized tests. 

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