Alarming graduation study released


Students take a remedial math class at Haltom High School to study for the STAAR state standardized tests.
Students take a remedial math class at Haltom High School to study for the STAAR state standardized tests. Star-Telegram

After surveying the top 100 school districts, the Texas Association of Business discovered over 86 percent of students who failed exit-level exams were allowed to graduate under a new law. The association is sounding the alarm with the release of the survey results.

SB 149, passed with overwhelming support, allows panels of educators and parents to evaluate a student’s achievements outside of his or her STAAR scores and determine if they should graduate despite failing the mandated test.

TAB and its CEO Bill Hammond criticized the policy, saying it creates an atmosphere in which students graduate but are unprepared for higher education.

“By not holding students to a higher standard, we are doing them and the entire state a disservice,” Hammond said in a news release.

That’s a valid point, a good bell to ring. Schools that graduate students who haven’t passed the exit-level exams could set up the student for failure later in life. Hammond even mentioned in the news release that students have all of their senior year to retake the test before graduation.

There are many opportunities for students to improve their STAAR scores, even if they don’t have good test-taking skills.

But TAB’s study shows that some districts might be abusing the new graduation policy. TAB said there were more than 5,600 recorded requests for waivers of testing requirements in the districts it studied.

And 86.4 percent were approved.

Out of the 78 districts that responded, 75 had an approval rate of 50 percent or higher. Twenty-three districts approved 100 percent of the requests made.

Fort Worth, Arlington and Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD did not respond to the survey.

All these facts and figures are alarming — a blaring siren about failures of the state’s public education system. But deeper into the numbers, that siren starts to sputter, the volume gets screechy or mute.

For example, Keller ISD had a 100 percent approval rate. The amount of students asking for waivers? Five.

Districts shouldn’t ignore the alarms, but TAB shouldn’t make them so loud. Some districts need to evaluate their waiver policy, but some are using the law correctly and helping students.

That is the point, right?

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