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By TERRENCE STUT | The Dallas Morning News
Friday, June 4, 2010
AUSTIN – There will be no diplomas this spring for about one in 10 high school seniors from the Class of 2010 because they failed one or more sections of the state's high school graduation test, the Texas Education Agency reported Thursday.
The estimated 28,592 seniors across the state who failed the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills and didn't graduate with their classmates represented an improvement, though. Last year, about 14 percent of seniors were denied diplomas.
Results from the exit-level TAKS showed that minority students were most affected by the graduation requirement, as 17 percent of black students and 14 percent of Hispanics were unable to pass all four sections of the exam, measuring skills in English, math, science and social studies. About 5 percent of white students and 4 percent of Asian students failed.
Students who failed were tripped up primarily by the math and science sections of the test. Overall passing rates were up for all ethnic groups from last year.
The current graduation test is scheduled to be replaced by a much tougher battery of exams in the 2011-12 school year. The state will phase in a series of 12 end-of-course exams – three each in the four core subject areas.
Students will have to get an average passing grade on the three tests in each subject area to earn a diploma.
Many educators believe the new requirements will be more difficult than what students now face – particularly since the end-of-course exams are supposed to measure skills that prepare a student for college.
Other TAKS results showed that most Texas students in grades five and eight – the other high-stakes testing grades – are being promoted after passing the TAKS this spring. But at least 15 percent of fifth-graders and 22 percent of eighth-graders were in danger of being held back unless they passed the exam on the second try in May.
Fifth- and-eighth graders fall under a state law aimed at curtailing the practice of social promotion – automatically passing students regardless of achievement.
Students in those grades who fail the exam twice get one more chance to pass during the summer. If they fail again, they must repeat their grade unless the student's parents, teacher and principal all agree that the student should be advanced.
Passing rates on the TAKS rose in all grades except six and eight. Sixth-graders dropped significantly in reading because of implementation of a new scoring system – the so-called vertical scale – which allows a student's scores to be compared from grade to grade to measure academic growth. Eighth-grade reading scores also dipped because of the new scoring model.
"The test results provide proof that students and teachers worked hard this year and that the reforms we have implemented are working," state Education Commissioner Robert Scott said Thursday.
For the first time in several years, third-graders did not have to pass the TAKS reading exam to be promoted.
That change was made by the Legislature last year after critics contended that young children should not be subjected to a high-stakes test.
However, schools and school districts that have an above-average number of third-graders fail would be subject to state sanctions under the legislation.
Among high school juniors who took the TAKS graduation test for the first time this spring, 82 percent passed all four sections and are guaranteed a diploma if they also meet course requirements. Last year, 75 percent passed. Those who failed will have four more opportunities to pass before graduation.
Passing rates by grade
Grade Passing rate
NOTE: Percentage of students passing all subject-area tests taken except for grades five and eight, where numbers reflect students who passed exams required for promotion. The fifth-grade figure is for reading; the eighth-grade figure is for math.
SOURCE: Texas Education Agency