STAAR scores should not raise alarms

Posted Friday, Jun. 13, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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There was good news this week for more than 80 percent of the upcoming Texas high school class of 2015: No state-mandated tests during their senior year.

The Texas Education Agency proudly announced on Wednesday that the majority of upcoming seniors have successfully passed all five required State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, end-of-course exams — Algebra I, English I, English II, Biology and U.S. History.

That’s the “glass is half full” perspective.

But this news also means that 19 percent of seniors, some 55,000 students statewide, failed one or more of the compulsory tests and will have to repeat it if they intend to graduate.

That’s the “glass is half empty” viewpoint.

The class of 2015 will be the first to graduate under the new, less-rigorous testing standards, which suggests to some that the pass rates should be higher and is raising alarm bells because they aren’t.

Education officials and school administrators have predicted that scores will rise as students, who have undergone a lot of recent changes in testing procedures, grow more accustomed to the tests.

They point out that at the comparable time during the state’s prior testing (TAKS), 28 percent of students in the first class graduating under the system had not successfully completed testing requirements for graduation by the end of their junior year.

But somehow, most Lone Star State teenagers seem to pull it together their senior year.

Just weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Education reported that Texas’ high school graduation rate in 2012 was one of the highest in the nation, at 88 percent, and graduation levels across demographic groups, including students from African-American (84 percent), Hispanic (84 percent) and economically disadvantaged (85 percent) communities, were also all well above national averages.

At the risk of being too optimistic, there’s good reason to believe that Texas high school seniors will close the gap and achieve a graduation rate comparable to that reached in recent years. Perhaps even better.

But confidence is no substitute for hard work, and that’s what will be required of all high school seniors who want not only to graduate, but succeed.

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