Arnold & Placek Responds to TEA Announcement on 2016 STAAR

Written by A&P News on June 10th, 2016. Posted in News

On May 22, 2016, four Texas parents, represented by Arnold & Placek, P.C., filed suit against the Texas Education Agency alleging that the 2016 STAAR assessments for Grades 3-8 did not comply with state law.  The parents sought relief from the court barring the use of these assessments for decisions related to promotion, retention, accelerated instruction and accountability.  Earlier today, the Texas Education Agency announced that it was removing all consequences to 5th and 8th grade students for 2016 STAAR results.  Further the announcement indicates that the results will not be used for school accountability ratings, although the specific nature of that decision is not disclosed.  All June STAAR retests for 5th and 8th grade were also cancelled.  Specifically, TEA Commissioner Mike Morath stated:

Given that June STAAR test results will not be required to be used for promotion decisions for SSI purposes and are not used for accountability, I am cancelling the June administration of STAAR for grades 5 and 8.  

Students in grades 5 and 8 who did not perform satisfactorily on the March 2016 or May 2016 STAAR mathematics and/or reading tests will not be retested in June. We encourage districts to use local discretion to determine on an individual basis whether accelerated instruction should be offered in the applicable subject area for students who did not pass the mathematics and/or reading assessments in March and/or May. For the 2015–2016 school year, districts are not required to convene grade placement committees based solely on grade 5 and 8 STAAR results.  Instead, you should use local discretion and all relevant and available academic information to make promotion/retention decisions for these students as you see fit, such as the recommendation of the teacher and the student’s grade in each subject.

We are evaluating the full text of the TEA’s statement and we await the agency’s response to the lawsuit which was filed seeking much of this same relief.  Despite the agency’s efforts to deflect blame for this decision onto its vendor, it is evident that the TEA realized that this year’s STAAR administration was not legally defensible.   We believe the TEA has taken sound first steps towards assuring that students do not suffer the consequences for the failures of the agency.  Arnold & Placek, P.C. expresses its continued gratitude to the plaintiffs in this litigation who stood up for their kids and demanded that no children suffer penalties as a result of assessments that do not comply with the laws of the State of Texas.

Additional Resources

  • Lead Counsel Scott Placek is available for comment.  Please schedule via e-mail: splacek@arnoldplacek.com

Arnold & Placek Sues TEA On Behalf of Parents Challenging 2016 STAAR Results

Written by A&P News on May 22nd, 2016. Posted in News

Arnold & Placek, P.C. has filed suit against Texas Education Agency commissioner Mike Morath for declaratory judgment relating to the failure of the TEA to comply with the requirements of HB 743 in the design of STAAR assessments administered to over 2,000,000 Texas students in grades 3-8.  Four parents of Texas students subject to penalties resulting from these illegal assessments are asking a Travis County district court to declare that these assessments do not comply with section 39.023 of the Education Code. They are seeking both declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent the TEA from penalizing, or requiring that districts penalize, students based on these illegally obtained results. They are seeking to prevent the results from being used for district or campus level accountability as well.

In 2015, the Texas legislature passed legislation requiring that the STAAR assessments be designed in such a way that (a) 85% of students in grades 3-5 could finish the assessments in less than two hours, and (b) 85% of students in grades 6-8 could finish the assessments in less than three hours.  Governor Abbot signed the bill into law on June 19, 2015.  Because the law was passed on an emergency basis, it took effect immediately.

However, when Texas students took the assessments over nine months later, the TEA had failed to change the design of the assessments, relying on the previous design with a four hour completion time.  Existing time studies demonstrate that the TEA knew these assessments would not be in compliance with HB 743.  Despite this, the TEA is insisting that school districts use the results to promote and retain students, assign them to summer school or other extra instruction, and that the districts themselves be rated for accountability purposes using the results from these illegally designed assessments.

Additional information regarding this suit is available below.

Press Conference:

Monday, May 23, 2016
10:30 a.m.
Outside the TEA Offices at 1701 N. Congress Ave., Austin, Texas

The press conference will be held on the sidewalk on the northeast corner of the intersection of 17th and Congress (the southwest corner of the block containing the TEA offices)

Availability:  Scott Placek, lead counsel for Plaintiffs; Ben Becker, Chairman, Committee to Stop STAAR

Media inquiries should be referred to Ben Becker at 254-744-5174.

Media Resources

The Committee to Stop STAAR has established a website at www.stopstaar.org to track the progress of the litigation.  The committee website is not affiliated with Arnold & Placek, P.C.

Committee to Stop STAAR Press Release (5/22/16)

Plaintiff’s Original Petition in Lewis et al. v. Morath

Prepared Remarks of Scott Placek on Filing of HB 743 Litigation

Arnold & Placek Obtains Summary Judgment on Duty to Defend Multiple-Fatality Claim

Written by A&P News on December 22nd, 2015. Posted in Coverage

In the 200th District Court of Travis County, Texas

Arnold & Placek, P.C. recently obtained a summary judgment on behalf of Texas Mutual Insurance Company regarding its duty to defend Texas HVAC Installers in an underlying wrongful death lawsuit. After three Texas HVAC employees died in a fire on their jobsite, their estates brought claims against Texas HVAC for wrongful death damages arising out of Texas HVAC’s alleged negligence and gross negligence.

On summary judgment, Arnold & Placek established, as a matter of law, that Texas Mutual had properly cancelled the insurance policy it had issued to Texas HVAC six days before the accident. As a result, Judge James Carroll ordered that Texas Mutual had no duty to defend or indemnify Texas HVAC in the underlying lawsuit. Texas Mutual was represented by Scott Placek and Jon Chaltain of Arnold & Placek. Jon Chaltain argued and obtained the ruling on summary judgment for Texas Mutual.

Arnold & Placek wins summary judgment in judicial review case affirming the principle that an alleged beneficiary must diligently pursue her claim for workers’ compensation benefits.

Written by A&P News on November 11th, 2015. Posted in Judicial Review

269th Judicial District, Harris County, Texas

Arnold & Placek, P.C. won summary judgment, ending a plaintiff’s lawsuit for judicial review of a Division of Workers’ Compensation’s decision. The plaintiff claimed to be a beneficiary entitled to death benefits as a common-law spouse, but she never filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits until a year after the filing deadline. The plaintiff and her team of lawyers asserted a wide variety of legal and equitable theories in the judicial review suit, including that “good cause” excused her late filing because they “had to” litigate probate and wrongful-death claims before proceeding with a workers’ compensation claim.

Arnold & Placek, P.C. filed a motion for summary judgment because none of the plaintiff’s theories satisfied the standard for good cause, which exists only when a beneficiary has exercised the degree of diligence that an ordinarily prudent person would have exercised under similar circumstances. Arnold & Placek also asserted that the claimant’s representation by counsel defeated the reliance element of her estoppel claim. The district court agreed and dismissed the plaintiff’s suit. Texas Mutual was represented by Scott Placek and Matthew Foerster of Arnold & Placek. Matthew Foerster argued the summary judgment motion for the carrier.

Arnold & Placek Obtains Dismissal of Claims for Death Benefits on Plea to Jurisdiction.

Written by A&P News on October 15th, 2015. Posted in Judicial Review

Arnold & Placek, P.C. today obtained a dismissal of all of a plaintiff’s claims for death benefits against Texas Mutual in Harris County Probate Court. The claimant originally filed for workers’ compensation death benefits after the decedent was killed when he fell from a ladder while cleaning gutters at a residence. Texas Mutual disputed the claim on the basis that the decedent was not in the course of employment to Texas Mutual’s policyholder, but rather was employed by a co-worker’s side business which performed handyman services. At the time of the accident, the decedent was performing those services while working on the residential premises of the policyholder’s owner. Texas Mutual prevailed at the Division of Workers’ Compensation.

After the claimant appealed to the probate court, Arnold & Placek filed a plea to the jurisdiction on behalf of Texas Mutual, arguing that the probate’s court is limited to only certain matters related to the decedents estate. Arnold & Placek further argued that the judicial review action, which by law can only be brought by the purported beneficiary, was wholly unrelated to any claim by the estate– therefore, the probate court had no jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s claims against Texas Mutual. The court agreed and dismissed all the claims against the insurer. The probate court litigation was handled by Scott Placek, Kyle Jones and Jonathan Chaltain. Kyle Jones argued the plea the jurisdiction for Texas Mutual.