Students Failing Texas STAAR Exams, Even on Retakes

Data released by the Texas Education Agency shows that high schoolers in the Lone Star State are having problems passing the new STAAR exam – even when given a chance to take it over several times. The students will soon be required to pass five State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness exams in order to earn a high school diploma, but those who fail will be allowed to retake each exam as many times as they need.

According to the Associated Press, even with that caveat in place, many test takers will fail to meet the requirement. Over 152,000 students failed the recent English I test, and fewer than 14% of them achieved a passing mark on the retake.

By comparison, more than 40 percent of the retesting students passed the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, STAAR's predecessor, said Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe.

"Students are not having that much luck," Ratcliffe told the Austin American-Statesman ("That's why they ought to take any chance they can. Don't sit out the summer test, that only hurts themselves."

In Central Texas, about 10,000 test takers have qualified for a retake this year, but this number is likely to go up significantly in the coming years. Starting with those who are beginning their sophomore year this fall, all students will be required to pass all five of the exams – Algebra I, Biology, English I, English II and U.S. History – to graduate.

By state law, districts are required to provide remedial assistance to those who fail the end-of-course exams, but how much help schools are required to offer is not specified. Some districts fulfill the remediation requirement by offering summer courses that go over several weeks. Some districts just offer a one-or-two-day prep class that focuses on test-taking techniques.

"The stakes are higher when the students know they didn't pass it the first time," said Tim Savoy, spokesman for the Hays district, which is spending $105,575 for a full-day summer school program for STAAR retesters, rather than shorter tutoring sessions. In addition, the district estimates it's spending $12,300 to administer the exams and pay proctors.
Gov. Rick Perry recently signed House Bill 5 into law, which reduced the number of STAAR end-of-course exams from 15 to five. Parents across the state had pushed back against the number of tests needed to graduate.

Despite the changes, education officials remain concerned with high failure rates. According to the AP, the passage rate for the English I exam is only 54% and only 53% of students earned a passing grade on Writing II.

"In the long run, there will be a small amount of savings" realized by cutting the number of tests from 15 to five, said Bill Caritj, chief performance officer for the Austin school district. "However, statewide, the biggest challenge seems to be in writing, and English I and English II are still graduation requirements."

07 9, 2013
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