Monday, September 19, 2005

Displaced students can skip exit exam

Displaced seniors can opt out of taking the test, but they'll apparently still have to meet graduation requirements in their home state (though this not well spelled out in this piece). -Angela

Displaced students can skip exit exam
Evacuees may receive diplomas from home state, officials say

12:00 AM CDT on Saturday, September 17, 2005

By KAREN AYRES / The Dallas Morning News

High school seniors who fled here from Louisiana will be able to bypass the Texas exit exam next month and probably will receive diplomas from their home state, state officials said Friday.

Displaced seniors can opt out of taking the test, which is normally required for a Texas high school diploma. It is given in October to seniors who did not pass the test their junior year. Those who do not pass have three more chances throughout the year.

Texas Education Agency spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said officials are confident that they can soon find a way for evacuees in the 12th grade to receive diplomas from their Louisiana districts, which would make it unnecessary for them to take the Texas test.

"It's the humanitarian thing to do because these kids, through no fault of their own, got uprooted their senior year," Ms. Culbertson said. "They're in a new state, and we just want to do what is best for the child.

"We don't want to hinder them in any way from receiving a diploma."

TEA Commissioner Shirley Neeley sent a letter to all superintendents on Friday noting that it is up to displaced parents to decide whether they want their 12th-graders to skip the October tests.

However, students in other grade levels will be required to take the statewide TAKS exams when they are given in the winter and spring.

TEA officials are to meet with Louisiana education leaders next week to discuss how to transfer Texas credits and issue Louisiana diplomas to displaced students.

They will also discuss how to administer the Louisiana exit exam to students who have failed sections of that state's mandated test.

More than 40,000 evacuees had registered in Texas schools by Wednesday. It was unknown how many of those students were seniors.

In her letter, Dr. Neeley said any displaced senior who wants a Texas diploma should take the TAKS exam, which is based on Texas curriculum.

As evacuees continue to enroll in Texas schools, many school districts had been waiting for the state to announce the testing policy. School officials had voiced concern that scores from the seniors, as well as the younger students tested, could affect state and national accountability ratings.

Performance in the high school exit exam is not included in the national No Child Left Behind accountability system; however, those results are included in the Texas rating system. Texas officials have said they plan to consider whether any considerations should be made for evacuees' scores.

Reavis Wortham, a spokesman for the Garland school district, which has roughly 370 evacuees enrolled, said Friday that the district is still getting students settled into their new schools.

"We knew the state was going to make a ruling, and we were waiting for that," Mr. Wortham said.

The TEA also extended the opt-out offer to seniors from Mississippi, but Ms. Culbertson said Friday that the agency hasn't discussed arrangements for testing or diplomas with officials from that state.

Parents will be required to notify their child's Texas school district in writing by Sept. 26 if they don't want their child to take the October test.


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