This week's exam will be make or break for 11 percent of state seniors
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
By TERRENCE STUTZ / The Dallas Morning News
AUSTIN – Nearly 11 percent of high school seniors in Texas – about 25,000 students – are still sweating out whether they'll receive a diploma next month because they have yet to pass the state's high school graduation exam.
The Texas Education Agency reported Tuesday that a significant number of seniors still have not passed one or more of the subject area tests on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills after four tries dating to the spring of their junior year. Their fifth and final chance will occur this week.
Although Texas students have been required to pass a graduation exam to earn a diploma since the late 1980s, the Class of '05 is the first that is being called on to pass the new TAKS graduation exam – a much more rigorous test than its predecessors.
The percentages of Texas high school seniors passing all four subject area tests of the TAKS – English, math, science and social studies – after four tries (the final chance to pass is this week):
All students, 89%
SOURCE: Texas Education Agency
The good news is that 89 percent of the Class of '05 has cleared the TAKS hurdle.
"These are very encouraging results for our first class of TAKS graduates," state Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley said Tuesday.
"They are living up to the state's higher standards and expectations. Our school districts are again offering intense instruction to the students who are still attempting to pass one or more parts of the TAKS. The overall passing rate is sure to increase by the end of the school year."
Students have had the most difficulty with the science test, which has been passed by 94 percent. Identical percentages – 95 percent – passed the English and math tests. The fourth subject area test – social studies – has been passed by 99 percent of students.
Black and Hispanic students have passed in lower percentages than white students, according to an analysis of test results by the TEA.
The passing rate was 82 percent for black students and 83 percent for Hispanic students after four testing dates. About 95 percent of white students have passed the graduation test.
Among economically disadvantaged students, the passing rate was 82 percent, while for limited-English-speaking students it was 54 percent.
The TAKS graduation test was introduced in high schools in the spring of 2004, replacing the old Texas Assessment of Academic Skills. Because the TAKS is a more difficult exam that measures knowledge in two additional subject areas – science and social studies – the State Board of Education voted to set a lower passing standard in the initial years of the test.
This year's seniors had to correctly answer fewer than half the questions to pass the test under a phase-in plan approved by the board. Juniors this year have to get more answers correct to pass, and the cutoff score will increase even further for juniors next year.