End-of-course test dilemma

I n 2007, the state legislature decided that high school students would be required to pass end-ofcourse exams in place of TAKS exit exams. In 2009, the legislature also decided that students grades 3- 8 would take a more challenging assessment (now called the STAAR) instead of TAKS beginning in 2012. They also decided that the end- ofcourse exams would be a part of the STAAR.

Somewhere in all of the discussions among legislatures regarding the new assessments it was determined that high school students needed more of an incentive to pass their tests. So each end-of-course test is required to be 15 percent of a student’s final grade of the class. There are three end-of-course tests for each of the four content areas. Science has Biology, Chemistry and Physics; English has English I, English II and English III; Math has Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II; and Social Studies has World Geography, World History and U.S. History.

Students (beginning with this year’s Freshman class) are responsible for this new requirement. Not only will the test count as 15 percent of their final grade, but each raw score will be converted to a scale score. The scale score will be used as part of a cumulative score to determine if the student can graduate and if the student is college ready. There seems to be a heavy reliance on a standardized test that may determine a student’s future.

On Monday, the Public Education Committee of the House of Representatives listened to testimony from parents, business representatives, the Texas Education Agency and public school educators (including me) regarding the implementation of the new rules and the estimated impact on students in the state of Texas. Listening to the committee’s comments and understanding that the House produced HB 500 during the last session seemed to indicate that they would like to see more of a phase in of the accountability requirements for students.

The testimony from parents, educators and business representatives also suggested that this process is not fair to this year’s ninth graders, that there is not enough information to guide districts and that the rules should be suspended until we have a better grasp understanding the intent of the legislature.

It may seem simple to some, but it is a huge challenge especially when students transfer from one district to another or from out-of-state. Another issue is that we will not receive student scores until mid-June after school dismisses and when many school employees that would handle student scores are off contract.

Schools have some of the answers and parents are welcome to speak to the campus administration regarding end- of- course testing, but schools are limited to the rules they have been given. If you want to have your voices heard in Austin you can call, e-mail or write your legislator. Senator Ogden will not be running this time, but Representative Schwertner is still serving as our representative and also has indicated that he will be running for the Senate in Senator Ogden’s district.

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2012-01-26 digital edition

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