March 11, 2022: Cancel STAAR!; Admins on retention task force outnumber teachers 26-2; Texas House sets interim work

Educators, parents, and students renew call to cancel STAAR testing

Respect means listening to our students, parents, and educators on what we need to emerge from this pandemic and to set a foundation for success in the future. Now is not the time to turn a blind eye to the harm inflicted by STAAR. It’s time to make the only rational decision—cancel STAAR.

Young boy holds hands to forehead in frustration looking down at a pencil and a test. Background is rows and rows of bubble-in test answers.

Instead, Texas is forging ahead this spring with STAAR, adding another item to the list of reasons why teachers are leaving the profession. The STAAR test is the epitome of disrespect for educators and results in added stress for parents and kids.


Shelbi Varnell, a parent and former 2nd-grade teacher, said STAAR was a significant part of her decision to depart early from teaching. “Multiple fields related to child development have cautioned against relying upon data derived from standardized tests,” she said. “But schools continue to use STAAR to not only disrupt much-need instruction time, but also to judge students and teachers. That’s ultimately one of the biggest factors that led to me leaving the field of education.”


“I’m super nervous about taking STAAR this year because I’m worried I won’t do well,” said Kaidence Varnell, Shelbi’s daughter and a 6th-grade student. “And if I don’t do well, I might not be able to take another elective next year. It’s just so much pressure for a kid, you know?”


“The STAAR test administration is cumbersome and time consuming,” Texas AFT President Zeph Capo added. “Parents and educators share concerns about learning loss and the need to support our children after two years of disruption. Our students deserve the time and attention to help them learn and achieve, instead of wading through bubble sheets and glitchy computers.”


Kay Wood, a parent activist who has opposed STAAR for years, also stressed that time would be better spent on real instruction. “During a pandemic, we’ve heard over and over about learning loss and learning gaps,” she said. “Yet teachers are asked to take away valuable instruction time to teach to the test and prep for a meaningless assessment that gives them no real information about what students need to succeed.”

“Parents, teachers, and students all agree that STAAR is not what our schools need,” Capo added. “The state should listen to key stakeholders in our public schools and cancel this costly, harmful test.”

TEA appoints teacher retention task force with superintendents and administrators outnumbering teachers 26-2

The Texas Education Agency responded to the governor’s orders for a teacher retention task force by creating a group overwhelmingly made up of superintendents and admins.

Dotted line of a figure representing a teacher merges into orange into a circle with text: Teacher Vacancy Task Force

“We have a task force looking at strategies to retain teachers and only two of its 28 members are teachers,” said Texas AFT President Zeph Capo in a statement to the media. “Not only is this a poor makeup for a task force, but it also is disrespectful and degrading. Superintendents and administrators may know the challenges of recruiting teachers, but the real input from teachers in the trenches about the stresses they face daily is essential. In our survey that showed that 66% of teachers are considering leaving the profession, they cite professional disrespect, heavy workloads, and shrinking paychecks as the reason they might quit. And we need to hear educators’ voices on this task force now to immediately address that.”

Speaker announces interim charges for House committees, includes review of a substantial number of public ed issues

On Thursday, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan announced his list of interim charges—issues and bills to be reviewed by House committees with hearings and reports issued before the next legislative session in January of 2023.

House Speaker Dade Phelan in suit and tie banging a gavel down in the House Chamber

On that list were a slew of items to be studied by the House Public Education Committee.

Items of note from that committee include revisiting the new process for accelerated instruction for students who don’t meet STAAR requirements, examining “efforts to ensure that parents have a meaningful role in their children’s education…[and] to protect the right of parents to participate in their child’s education,” assessing learning loss from the pandemic,  researching issues related to the TRS pension fund, and making  “recommendations to improve educator recruitment, retention, and preparation throughout the state.”

AFT’s 2022 Share My Lesson Virtual Conference begins March 21

 AFT is holding its annual Share My Lesson Conference this year on March 21 through March 24.

The event will include a large attendance of pre-K through college-level educators, specialized instructional support staff, paraprofessionals, parents, and caregivers from all over the world to engage with union members for professional development.

The conference has nearly 50 free webinars scheduled, touching on a variety of relevant topics, including: building community & classroom engagement; current events, history, and media literacy; diversity, equity, and inclusion; social-emotional learning and mental health; and more! AFT union president Randi Weingarten will deliver a keynote speech on “The State of Public Education.” There will also be a teacher-led panel on how “Teachers Unify to End Gun Violence” and a keynote from U.S. Congresswoman Jahana Hayes on the “Freedom to Teach Honestly” in public schools.

The conference also features a Self-Care Giveaway, where registered attendees have the opportunity to win one of three self-care packages, ranging from $50 to $159 worth of prizes! If you register for the conference and attend any of the nearly 50 webinars, you will earn one hour of professional development credit. The abundance of resources and meaningful dialogues from experienced professionals in public education will make this conference something you will not want to miss. You can register for as many events as you’re able to attend here.

$10,000 DonorsChoose Sweepstakes

 To support you and your students, our benefit partner Horace Mann is funding $10,000 in DonorsChoose projects! You can enter for your chance to win now through April 8. During the week of April 4-8, they will fund at least $2,000 in DonorsChoose projects for multiple educators every day. That means there’s lots of funding to go around and lots of chances to win.

Here’s the scoop.

  1. Enter your DonorsChoose project now through April 8 for your chance to win.

  2. During the week of April 4 – 8, Horace Mann will draw winners and fund at least $2,000 in DonorsChoose projects each day.

See here for official rules.

graphic figures holding signs saying

On Saturday we’ll be at the March for Education to protest banned books

Now is the time to stand up for our right to a full, accurate, and inclusive education.


We need to make it clear to our legislators and our schools across Texas that we will not be complacent in the face of attempts to place a gag on our educational freedom.

Join us and Voters of Tomorrow Texas at the Texas Capitol on Saturday, March 12, from 10 a.m. to noon, to protest the banning of books from schools across Texas! Hear from distinguished speakers—including Texas AFT President Zeph Capo—on the dangers of this attack on our education. There will be an opportunity to register to vote and to pick up your very own free banned book (while supplies last)! Information on parking will be sent via email to all who register for the event. Register for the event here.

Statue of Liberty against a brilliant blue sky. Text: Together We Rise Citizenship Clinic for the Rio Grande Valley

Together We Rise
Citizenship Clinic

 Our local unions in the Rio Grande Valley will be co-sponsoring a Citizenship Clinic on April 9 to help lawful residents to navigate the paperwork and process for becoming a citizen.

Those interested must also register for a forum before the event to help work on their applications.

\Ready to step it up and hone your leadership skills?


Are you ready to take a more active role in your union and make a difference for your schools and profession?

Attend one of our Regional Leadership Conferences sponsored by Texas AFT’s Bridges Institute. The Bridges Institute is a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to providing professional learning opportunities for Texas public school employees. After a successful conference last Saturday in McAllen, we still have one more scheduled:

Chris Leal speaks into a microphone with a bookcase and campaign sign behind him

Houston, April 2

Courses will be offered for members to help them build union power at their worksite. The sessions focus on strategies and tips for organizing—foundational pieces for moving potential members to members, members to activists, and activists to leaders.
See the full course lineup and register here.