Texas Legislature Mulls Easing Graduation Requirements


House members in Texas are looking to ease up on graduation requirements for high school students, which could cause thousands of this year’s seniors to become exempt from upcoming end-of-course state exams.

Currently, students in the state must pass five exams in order to receive a diploma.  However, the new measure would ask students to pass only three such tests so long as they also receive a passing average in each of their core classes.  Students would also need to obtain a testing waiver approved by a special graduation committee.

Rep. Dan Huberty, the bill’s sponsor, argued that the Texas Education Agency has not offered enough instructional materials to help students obtain the skills necessary to pass the exams, making the bill necessary.

“Many of these students have done everything else they were told to do to graduate,” he said, contending it would be unfair to bar them from receiving a diploma because of one or two tests.

Once the bill has received final approval it will make its way to the Senate, where a similar proposal was passed only weeks ago.  If the Senate approves this bill, it will move on to the desk of the governor, writes Terrence Stutz for The Dallas Morning News.

There are currently around 28,000 seniors in danger of not graduating this year, as they have yet to pass enough of the STAAR end-of-course exams, which amounts to about 10% of the total class in the state.

Critics of the bill are citing examples from the state’s fifth and eighth grade students, where students are allowed to be exempt from needing to pass a similar exam in order to move on to the next grade level.  They say the goal of the rule had initially been to put an end to such social promotions by requiring students to pass a standard skills exam.

According to state figures, most children who fail the exam are still able to move on to the next grade level through a promotion gained by a small committee made of the school principal, teacher and parent of the child.  Similar committees would be created for high school seniors if the new bill is approved.

Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business and a former House member, argues that the new bill will see similar results, with students being allowed to graduate even after failing the exams.

“The creation of these review committees will effectively reinstate social promotion. It also reduces the value of the diploma for all those who worked hard in school and proved their skills on these tests,” Hammond said.

Parents, teachers, and school board members are continuing to complain about high-stakes testing in Texas.  Only two years ago they persuaded lawmakers to ditch 10 of the 15 end-of-course exams the state had wanted to implement, writes Stephen Young for The Dallas Observer.