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Abbott Signs Texas Law Giving High School Seniors Graduation Options if State Tests Failed

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 149 (SB 149) into law on Monday, May 11. The goal of this legislation is to create another path to high-school graduation for students who do not pass two of the five annual End-of-Course (EOC) State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests.

“The goal of the Texas public education system should be to ensure all students who graduate from high school are college or career-ready,” Abbott said after signing the bill. “Ensuring that Texas students are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary for future success is what students, parents and taxpayers deserve. That is exactly why I have pledged to elevate Texas’ public education system to be number one in the nation.”

“While it is critical that the state appropriately holds public schools and districts accountable for delivering the best possible education, we must protect Texas students from being penalized as a result of evolving testing standards,” the Governor added. “SB 149 protects students from undue penalization, and guarantees that students who meet specified requirements are able to graduate.”

SB 149 will allow schools to form graduation committees to evaluate graduation eligibility, on a case-by-case basis, for students who have completed all of their required coursework, but have not passed all of their state mandated EOC STAAR tests.

These committees will include principals, teachers, guidance counselors, and parents. They will assess a student’s performance based on criteria such as grades, College Board standardized college entrance exam scores, and attendance records.

SB 149 was authored by Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), who recently told the Dallas Morning News that his legislation was “aimed at the 28,000 seniors from the Class of 2015 who are in danger of not graduating because they have not passed one or more of the tests.”

The five exams taken at graduation include Algebra I, English I and II, US History, and Biology. Under the revised standards, they will only need to pass three of these exams to graduate. “This is not designed to provide an easy exit for students,” Seliger insisted, arguing that his reforms would encourage students who meet other state graduation requirements to secure their high school diplomas.

Public opinion on SB 149 has been varied. Supporters applaud the alternative route for high school graduation made available to otherwise qualified students who might not perform well on high-stakes testing… especially at a time when academic standards, and indeed the tests themselves, are in flux.

Critics – such as Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business – fear that SB 149 will produce graduates who are less prepared for higher education or the workplace. In an interview with the Dallas Morning News, Hammond said the new review committees would hand out “social promotion,” minimizing the “value of the diploma for all those who worked hard in school and proved their skills on these tests.”

SB 149 became effective immediately.

Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom


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