Texas State Senator Kel Seliger is lobbying to have a bill approved that would allow school officials to be able to decide whether or not to graduate high school seniors who do not pass the state exams.
Seliger would like to make use of rare legislative procedure that would allow him to bypass the ban on considering bills within the first 60 days of session, which began on January 13. The bill could affect over 28,000 seniors this year who failed the exams.
“We are refining our accountability measure, and I think it gets better all the time,” said Seliger, who chairs the Senate’s Higher Education Committee. “At the same time, we don’t want young people to be retained in school who really ought to graduate.”
Senate Bill 149 is already set to be considered at the first hearing of the Senate Education Committee next week.
In order to bypass the 60-day rule, the bill would need support from four-fifths of the lawmakers within each chamber.
Two years earlier, parents and educators rallied together to protest the overuse of standardized tests in public schools. The move caused legislators to unanimously decrease the number of tests required within the state from 15 to 5 for high school students. This was done, in part, due to a fear that not many seniors would actually graduate.
Since that time, lawmakers have continued to argue whether the number of exams taken in the state portray an accurate reflection of academic performance, writes Morgan Smith for The Texas Tribune.
If approved, the bill would allow individual districts to create panels made of educators, counselors and parents who would consider a variety of factors including grades, college entrance exam scores and attendance in their decision as to whether high school seniors who have failed state standardized tests should graduate with their class and receive a diploma. In order to graduate under this method, a student must hold a 2.0 grade point average, pass all required courses and receive a unanimous vote from the panel.
“In many cases, the students have passed all the coursework and are eligible for graduation from high school and, without that diploma, a student cannot attend college even to obtain professional certification,” Seliger said during the Senate Finance Committee’s first meeting of the legislative session, where the panel took public testimony on only his bill.
About 28,000 students still need to pass at least one of five state exams required for graduation. The last chance to retake those exams is this May.
At least half of this year’s graduating class must currently retake at least one exam.