Lawmakers to consider bill to scale back STAAR requirement Tuesday

The Texas Senate could have considered a bill on Tuesday that would continue a policy that allows high school students to graduate even if they fail state standardized tests.

The Senate did not debate the bill on Tuesday but it could do so in the coming days.

Senate Bill 463 filed by Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, would allow schools to graduate high school seniors who fail up to two State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness. A committee made up of the student’s teacher, principal and parents can give unanimous consent for such students to graduate as long as they pass all of their classes, among other requirements.

A 2015 bill proposed by Seliger established the use of the committees but it’s slated to expire in September. His bill would keep the policy in place permanently.

According to the Texas Education Agency, 9,000 students graduated through the graduation committees in the 2015-16 school year, comprising about 3 percent of all graduates. About 4,000 students were rejected to graduate after going through the committees.

In the 2014-15 school year — the first year the policy was in place — 6,300 students graduated through the committees.

Proponents of the committees see them as an opportunity for students who are English learners or have learning disabilities or testing anxiety to still graduate. Opponents have said that the policy has created an easy way for school districts and students to avoid the consequences of doing subpar work and that some graduating students possibly are unprepared for life after high school.

Also on Tuesday, the House Public Education Committee is slated to hear a bill filed by Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, that would scale back STAAR requirements. The bill has been co-authored by 26 other lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans. The provisions in House Bill 1333 include:

• Reducing the current amount of state standardized tests.

• Allowing school districts to choose another assessment besides the STAAR as long as it complies with the state’s curriculum standards.

• Prohibiting tying teacher evaluations to students’ STAAR performance.

• Reducing the impact that STAAR scores make on a school’s accountability ratings from the state each year, from 55 percent to 25 percent.

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