Friday, October 10, 2014



Refuting Rhonda Crass’ Legal Opinion

I think this is bad law and full of specious arguments. Crass hangs herself in her own opinion.  She says:

“When courts construe statutes, their primary goal is to discern the intent of the legislature "from the plain meaning of the words .hosen." State v. Shumake, 199 S.W.3d 279, 284 (Tex. 2006) (addressing statutory concstruction). Statutes and rules are interpreted as a whole rather than their isolated provisions.”

I totally agree with this statement. Legislative intent is the key to interpreting any statute and in this case, HB5 was intended to reduce the number of tests students had to take. (All tests)

Crass then goes on to quote the author of the bill:

“Representative Mike Villarreal, who authored the amendment to HB 5 that included Section 39.0263, issued a press release after the amendment was adopted explaining that the amendment “allows schools to continue to prepare students for tests but prevents the excessive use of practice tests that is all too common in Texas schools today.” (Italics provided)
Her interpretation of the word “prepare” is questionable:

“. . . the legislature intended the word “prepare” to address the practice of simulating the administration of the STAAR test that is often accomplished by simulating the time constraints and testing situations that often consumes a great amount what would otherwise be instruction time.”

I haven’t read the bill but I question whether it gives this definition to the word. I doubt prepare means only this simulation of test situations. I think the intent was indeed to (again, from the Crass opinion):

“The SCAs administered by the District as well as any type of evaluation instrument used by a classroom teacher could arguably “prepare students for a corresponding state-administered assessment instrument”, it is not likely that a challenge would be successful. Because the SCAs are short in nature, are for the purpose of measuring what mastery of the TEKS has taken place and what remediation is needed to ensure the mastery of the TEKS rather than to simulate testing conditions which provide a one time snapshot of a student’s mastery of the material presented, the overly broad argument that SCAs are benchmark assessments does not appear to be a valid reason for discontinuing SCAs at the District.”

I would argue that the SCAs are exactly what she describes above (in italics), and a challenge to an independent entity should be successful.


The District sought an opinion on the SCAs to justify their right to require them.  As always they refer to the technical aspect of anything done because it justifies in their mind that they are doing the right thing for kids.  Instead of working with teachers or seeking advice from those that are working with children, they allow a legal opinion to proceed with what amounts to nothing in regards to improving instruction.

So we took a trip out to the field and looked at the SCAs and gathered input from administrators.   We came across a copy of the SCAs and could not believe how weak they are and look put together at the last minute.  I would ask the Board members to ask Sorum for a review of them and to specify what they are supposed to measure.  We were told that the SCAs are just something to give and that the district is not truly focused on them.  Sorum says they are not to be used for accountability.  Some tests took longer than a class period and then no time to meet to discuss results or time to plan.

In looking at the first grade test, come on, if the children don't know how to read and it's an oral test, how would they know what to bubble or know how to bubble.  Bubbling a test is not just something you throw at children.  If teachers have to bubble for students they need time to do it and for sure it won't take just one day.  These are things that administration does not take into consideration because it's easy for them to give a command and everyone is supposed to jump.

Back to the legal opinion, basically because no legal challenge has occurred, the district will make the pitch that they are legal.  The opinion states that it is a gray area and does fall under district mandated assessments.  The length of time may be an issue because the district can say it takes only the class period but they are not going to tell you if that actually occurred because they are not monitoring.  Remember that the district only says what will fall under legal not what is actually happening in the classrooms.

The fifth grade reading test had 3 questions, yes 3 questions that were supposed to measure student learning.  Tell us the research on that one Sorum!!

See for yourselves



 1st grade

 2nd Grade Writing


  1. This "opinion" was written by a Firm; "..with a main focus on the representation of public schools" - NOT children/students. "Our attorneys are available to meet head-on any legal issues confronted by schools, both public and charter, throughout the state of Texas." I believe that background explains in part the opinion as it relates to "...the second part of the definition". This is ridiculous dribble. Maybe someone out there with deep pockets out there will challenge this in Court. Just what FWISD needs right? ANOTHER lawsuit!! But when you operate in the shadows and fear exposure, you hide behind attorneys instead of using common sense or listening to the people in the trenches trying to teach.

  2. Ann Sutherland originally had posted that she was told " a case could be made" that the SCA's were legal. That's been replaced with a more formal statement from the district. Too bad. I liked her original response better. Nice that the district continues to want to spend money in court rather than on students. As we see more and more of the irresponsibility of the board and the administration we think it can't get worse but it does.

  3. If you read the last four paragraphs of the "opinion" you see that Dr. Sutherland's interpretation is far more legally correct that that of FWISD. What self-serving trash this is. "Until there is a legal challenge where a judicial body makes a definitive ruling, the District must rely on the legal opinion of counsel and the interpretation by the administration." "MUST"? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I wonder if FWISD paid her 3x the standard fee to get the result they wanted. I hope some parents or some advocacy group files a law suit to shut this down or maybe the Legislature/State will take some action on this out of control Board. This is just more of the same arrogant, harmful B.S. Needham and crew are famous for.

  4. When I read this verbiage to TEA, she said "there may be a governmental issue as well." We will see.

  5. Hats off to you Ann! This quote from your website says it all: "This morning, I spoke with staff to Jimmie Don Aycock, TX House Education Chair. He assures me that the Lege does not want our schools spending their time giving tests; they want the children to have time to learn." And: "They have to follow the law." What a breath of fresh air!! As with the Open Meetings Act lawsuit and every other law suit this ISD is involved in, the Board would rather throw money to lawyers than spend it in the classroom and admit they are wrong. Both candidates for Governor could use FWISD as an example of how NOT to run an ISD. Increased standardized testing keeps the downtown bureaucracy bloated. Ann Sutherland for School Board President!