The good news is: 76 percent of the 309,000 Texas public school students in the class of 2015 who have taken all or most of the five end-of-course (EOC) exams required to graduate have passed those assessments.
That means the bad news is: 24 percent of the students have not passed all the tests thus far administered, putting them in danger of not receiving a diploma next year.
While the Texas Education Agency tried to put a positive spin on the numbers when it released them three months ago, members of the Senate Education Committee at a meeting Monday expressed alarm that almost a quarter of the juniors had failed at least one of the exams, according to a report by The Dallas Morning News.
The News said Committee Chairman Dan Patrick, R-Houston, called the disappointing scores a “crisis in education” that has to be addressed, especially in light of the fact that under certain exemptions from TEA Commissioner Michael Williams, getting just 37 percent of answers correct represents a passing score. Without the exemptions, the number of failing students would have been higher, a representative of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund testified.
Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, who supported reducing the EOC exams from 15 to five, also expressed concern over the failure rate.
The 2013 legislation known as House Bill 5, in addition to reducing the number of tests, eliminated testing in the more difficult subjects of English III, Algebra II and chemistry.
Most of the students have taken tests in Algebra I, biology and English I and II, with the U.S. history exam (usually taken in the junior year) scheduled this spring.
Although TEA officials are optimistic that students will continue to improve, Patrick voiced fear that even if passing rates get better, Texas graduates may not be college- or career-ready because of the less rigorous exams.
While it may not be time to panic quite yet, these new exams will be a test of the students and of the state’s education system.