Governor eases STAAR test graduation requirements for seniors

High school seniors will now be able to graduate regardless if they've passed all elements of the STAAR test. Governor Abbott signed that into law Monday.

In April, we once again saw students pulled out of school as the STAAR Test was administered. Their parents attempted to opt out.

Some say the high stakes testing, such as requiring 5th and 8th graders to pass in order to move on to the next grade level, is too much for their children.

Those concerns made it to state legislators and on Monday Governor Greg Abbott eased the requirements for graduating seniors. The class of 2015 is the first wave required to pass the STAAR exams in order to get their diplomas.

Abbott signed Senate Bill 149 into law. It is effective immediately.

Instead of having to pass all five test categories which include: English I, English II, biology, algebra and U.S. history, students may now only pass three and still graduate.

That's only if a graduation committee approves. Texas Education Agency Spokesperson Debbie Ratcliffe is currently informing districts of what that means.

"This committee which has to be formed which is made up of the principal, the teacher of the course tied to the test so for example if they failed the biology test, it would be the biology teacher, the department chair or lead teacher, the parent and the student if the student is over 18."

Ratcliffe says their decision must be unanimous.

"There are potentially 20 thousand students that could be impacted," she said.

Governor Abbott released the following statement about the law:

"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. SB 149 protects students from undue penalization, and guarantees that students who meet specified requirements are able to graduate."

Texas Association of Business CEO Bill Hammond says the law lessens the value of a diploma.

"Today in Texas there's some 500,000 jobs that are open and not filled and incidentally there are 500,000 Texas who are unemployed. But they lack the education to fill the needs of the employers of today," Hammond said.

Hammond was a state representative in 1984 when passing standardized tests was made mandatory for graduation.

"The numbers of kids who don't make it they are not any different this go round than they are in the past. Yet, the legislature is reacting to some public pressure to lower the bar," Hammond said. "If you set the bar so low and you waive the bar what have you done? You've achieved a negative in our view."

This legislation is effective only until 2017. At that point legislators must renew it. The only students who stand to benefit at this point are current high school seniors and juniors.

To learn more about SB 149: Letter to Administrators, click here and emergency rules, click here.

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