State lawmakers have done away with the dreaded TAKS test and are planning to replace it with end-of-course exams.
But high school seniors shouldn’t get too giddy too quickly over the prospect: they’ll have to pass all 12 of the end-of-course tests to graduate and the exams will be used as part of their final course grade.
Oh yeah, seniors will continue to take the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test until the 2014, six years from now.
The freshman class of 2011 will be the first to take the end-of-course exams. Their sophomore, junior and senior schoolmates will still have to pass the TAKS exam to graduate.
Thirty-five high school seniors in Beeville didn’t pass all portions of the exam in time to graduate this spring with their classmates.
Beeville school trustees were asked just weeks before graduation to allow the seniors to walk the stage anyway. The board refused to change school district policy that prohibits students from participating in commencement if they haven’t passed the test.
The trustees said the seniors knew the graduation requirements and school district policy before they began their senior year.
And the board members said they didn’t think it wise to change the policy at the last minute to allow the seniors to walk the stage when the school district didn’t allow seniors to walk in years past if they hadn’t passed the TAKS.
The board held a special-called meeting the week of graduation to allow students to address trustees on the matter.
Board members were sympathetic to the students’ plight but refused to change their minds on the matter.
However, Trustee John Fish asked the administration to arrange to have the issue brought back up in June so that the board could have a second look at it.
That meeting occurred Tuesday.
And true to their word the board members discussed whether or not to change the policy and the merits or faults of allowing all seniors to participate in commencement.
They also considered a proposal to allow the seniors who have yet to pass the TAKS test by the end of their senior year to walk the stage anyway.
That proposal was brought to the table by Trustee Velma Elizalde.
“I don’t want to just let students walk (the stage during commencement), and I know there’s some faculty that is concerned about what will happen if we just let them walk whether they passed the test or not,” she told her colleagues on the board. “But I know that there are others that call me and tell me you don’t know the heartbreak, you don’t know how much these students try. And I have calls from administration and counselors that tell me they support what I stand for. So I’m not standing alone although it seems like it sometimes.”
Elizalde recommended the board adopt a graduation policy that calls for students to sign a contract and fulfill the terms of that contract in order to participate in graduation, even though they may have failed to pass the TAKS exam by the end of their senior year.
Elizalde had pitched the same idea last May as well.
Although the state requires students to pass the TAKS exam in order to graduate and earn a diploma, school districts can still allow them to walk the stage during commencement ceremonies, Superintendent Dr. John Hardwick Jr. explained to the board.
That’s what Elizalde proposed.
“My suggestion is that we say right at the beginning, ‘You have not passed the test,’” she explained. “These are the things that we want you to do in order for you to be allowed to walk (the stage during commencement). Now, if you don’t pass and you do all these things (asked of you), then we know you made a whole-hearted effort to be successful and that you tried and you’re going to be allowed to walk. If you do not comply with the terms of this contract, then I’m sorry, when you come before us, I’m personally going to feel (for you) but I’m going to say, ‘Sorry, you didn’t fulfill the terms of the contract and you cannot walk.’”
Some of the “things” the students would be required to do is attend tutoring sessions before, during or after school, Elizalde said.
She has said in the past that the high school faculty can develop the contract and set the requirements to ensure that students earn the right to participate in graduation ceremonies.
Just attending the tutorials will be beneficial to the students because of the additional knowledge they will undoubtedly pick up, she noted.
“We allow them to walk. We award them for their efforts ... because, frankly, some of these kids are not ever going to pass this test, and I think some of the administration knows that,” she said. “They try all they can but they’re not going to be successful at the testing. But if they’re successful at least at putting forth an effort and gaining more skills, I consider that a success and I don’t consider it diminishing anyone (else’s achievements) to allow (these) students to walk.”
High school administrators assured the board that the tutoring sessions work well.
Indeed, 16 high school seniors in Beeville who had not passed all portions of the TAKS exam by the end of their junior year earned their diplomas and participated in commencement ceremonies in May because they attended the tutoring sessions their senior year.
Thirty-five of their classmates who were also failing the TAKS exam but didn’t attend the tutoring sessions did not graduate or walk the stage.
Fifteen of those students attended classes at A.C. Jones High School and 20 attended class at the Learning Resource Center, which is also a BISD campus.
Thirty-four students from those campuses were not allowed to walk the stage in May 2007 for similar reasons. Some of their parents were upset over the board’s refusal to allow their children to participate in commencement. The parents said they were unaware their children had not passed all portions of the state-mandated exit exam or that tutoring was offered.
The board ordered high school administrators to notify parents throughout the 2007-08 school year that their children hadn’t passed the TAKS exam and to tell parents and children of the tutoring classes.
Trustee Matthew Huie commended the high school faculty and staff for their efforts to help those students who wanted to graduate.
“The high school administration went well beyond the call of duty of communicating what our policy was,” he said Monday, noting that only one senior attended the special-called meeting in May to discuss the matter.
All the other seniors and parents who were failing the TAKS apparently knew they had failed to follow school district policy, he surmised.
“I think that shows the high school did an excellent job of communicating with the households that were affected directly.”
Fish appeared willing to consider Elizalde’s idea of a contract between the school and parents as long as the board adopted the new policy before the start of the school year.
“Let’s look at information on these kids who aren’t meeting state requirements and let’s decide what we want to do with them graduation night — and let’s do it in the summer not in the last week of May,” he said. “Doing it in the last week of May, I think, is causing a major problem in this district.”
Trustee Bobby Schauer agreed.
“We need to make a decision before the school year starts, let everyone know what the rules are going to be and then we’re going to have to live by them and the kids are going to have to live by them,” he said. “I don’t feel like it does the community or kids any good to bring this up every year and rehash it. We need to have a policy and implement it ... and once the school year starts, I say we stand pat, stand firm on the fact that we implemented a policy. We’re not going to change it. We know that not everybody is going to be happy with it but I feel like by rehashing it this year and last year is not productive for our kids or the community.”
Board President Nick Cardenas wanted to know how the school district would administer the contracts
“My biggest concern is 25 different contracts,” he said, adding that verifying so many different contracts may put a strain on the high school staff. “It’s gong to be very time consuming. How are we going to monitor each contract individually?”
Trustees agreed to discuss the matter again at a meeting later this summer and make a final decision on what to do about graduation at that time.