Parents launch 'Opt Out' Academy to protest STAAR test

- Grade schoolers all over Texas are taking the state's mandatory "STAAR" test this week, except for the ones who aren't. Many parents are opting their children out of the test, saying it's fraught with problems. This year most of this area's superintendents are seeing the problems themselves.

But many parents are replacing testing days with learning days, and the Opt Out Academy in Houston's Heights is one option.

"The Opt Out Academy is an opportunity that we want to give to working parents, who would not be able to stay at home, or do another activity with their child, but they still want to exercise their parental rights and opt out," says Claudia De Leon Geisler, one of OOA's organizers.

Volunteer educators and parents staff the program. It's a free form school, open during the 2 testing weeks each year. There are writing and math classes at age appropriate levels, and on this, day a geologist has a hands on lesson about rocks and minerals.

Dee Arellano's children are among nearly 2 dozen other grade schoolers attending.

"I don't believe in standardized testing and I want to support my child and his teachers, and his school, and our community," says Arellano. "I think this is a good strategy."

OOA organizers say about 500 Houston area students are opting out of the STAAR test this year, compared to 100 last year. Geisler says the fight against high stakes, standardized testing is gaining momentum, and making strides.

"The Houston ISD has removed STAAR as a promotion requirement for grades other than 5th and 8th, which are state mandated," Geisler says. "We want to go further and have standardized test scores removed from teacher evaluations and principal evaluations."

In fact, 50 superintendents in the Houston area have told the Texas Education Agency this year's test has had so many problems, results shouldn't even be used.

But Texas parents are sending a message to the state, too. Check out Facebook where they're posting photos of their children enjoying alternative forms of education during STAAR testing week.

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