Bill passage may give 28,000 Texas students another shot at graduation

 Senate Bill 149 passed a final vote in the House Wednesday.
   
After a few details are hammered out, Governor Abbott could sign it -- meaning Texas students who have passed at least 3 of the 5 STAAR tests required to graduate will get another shot at a diploma.
   
As it stands now, they have to pass all 5.
   
Allen Weeks with Save Texas Schools is pleased with the bill's passage.

Bill Hammond, the CEO of the Texas Association of Business is not pleased.

Hammond says the bar wasn't that high for students to begin with...now it's being lowered.

"Over the last 30 years we've had different testing regimes and at no time prior to this year has the test ever been waived.  And the numbers are no worse today than they were in the past.  So I think this is an overreacting to testing and will not benefit the students in the future," Hammond said.

A representative for bill author Senator Kel Seliger says students can fail up to 2 of the tests...and this is not exactly a "freebie" --  a committee made up of the school principal, teachers, a counselor and the parent will review the student's overall academic performance, attendance records and have them do a project or portfolio.

"It's not an easy out.  It's not an automatic out for the kids.  But it will look at their whole body of work and see if they're ready for graduation," Weeks said.

Seliger's office says it's meant to help students who are good students...just not good test takers: like Regan Lively.  She got a $16,000 scholarship for her high GPA -- but she can't pass one of the STAAR tests.

"I have extreme Dyslexia and I have extreme test anxiety.  So when I go into the room, I forget everything.  I don't know what I'm doing and I look at the paper.  I have oral admins...so someone is reading it to me.  It's like I can hear the words but I can't comprehend what they're saying," Lively said.

Weeks says students should be held accountable for their education but there's too much emphasis on the tests and he says the tests themselves have issues.

"I've got 2 Masters Degrees.  I'm working on a PHD and I've found questions where I know that two of the answers are correct.  I found questions where I really doubt that any of the questions are correct," Weeks said.

Senator Seliger wanted to pass this bill quickly -- so his office expects these changes to go into effect as soon as the Governor signs it...giving those 28,000 students currently "off-track" to graduate, a chance to get back "on-track" before the end of the school year.



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