A very informative article written by Terrence Stutz, Deputy Bureau Chief of Austin Bureau/Dallas Morning News
Texas Senate | Panel OKs easing test policy
Those who don’t pass all 5 exams could still graduate under plan
AUSTIN – Senate Education Committee members Wednesday unanimously approved legislation that would allow thousands of high school seniors to get a diploma without passing state graduation exams – a requirement that has been in place for 28 years.
The measure by Sen. Kel Seliger would allow high school seniors who cannot pass all five Texas end-of-course exams to bypass the graduation test requirement if they qualify for a new exemption created by the bill. The proposal now goes to the full Senate.
Since 1987, high school seniors in Texas have had to pass a graduation test – or series of tests – to get a diploma. The requirement dates back to the landmark school reform law passed in 1984 that also included class size limits and the no-pass, no-play rule.
Seliger said his legislation was prompted by the estimated 28,000 seniors from the Class of 2015 who are in danger of not receiving their diplomas because they have not passed all five end-of-course tests required for graduation. Those exams measure knowledge and skills in Algebra I, biology, English I, English II and U.S. history.
“Without a high school diploma, these students cannot attend college, join the military or qualify for many jobs,” Seliger said, adding that many of the students will simply drop out if they repeatedly fail the EOC exams, part of the STAAR testing program. “We want to make sure there aren’t any artificial impediments to these students graduating,” he explained.
His bill would create an “individual graduation committee” for each student who has failed EOC exams on multiple tries. The committee – made up of the principal, teacher, counselor and parent – could exempt the student from the test requirement with a unanimous vote. The panel would first consider other factors such as course grades and attendance.
Senate Education Committee Chairman Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, said parents and local school officials have complained of a “big disconnect” between test results and how students perform in class. “We have some real questions about the test. It is keeping some students from graduating who have done all their coursework and passed all their courses but just can’t get past this test,” he said.
Some senators, however, worried that many students would see the new exemption policy as a loophole in the law that would allow them to easily circumvent the graduation test requirement. And some critics of the idea predicted that most of the students who can’t pass the exams will now be allowed to skirt the requirement under the legislation.
Students who fail three or more of the five EOC exams would not be eligible for the exemption. This year, more than 90 percent of all seniors have already passed all five end-of-course tests. The other 28,000 students have one more chance to pass in the spring.
“It appears to politically appease anti-test parents and educators by extending social promotion to include the awarding of diplomas”.
SBOE, District 12