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Testing Changes Put College Readiness in Spotlight

On the latest Agenda Texas, from KUT News and the Tribune: Changes to the number of high-stakes tests given in Texas high schools has sparked worries about students' college readiness.

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The Texas Legislature passed several bills focusing on public education this year, but one garnered much of the attention. House Bill 5 reduced the number of State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR tests, a student must pass to graduate from high school. Instead of passing 15 different subject areas to graduate, now it’s five.

Advocates support the change because it cuts down on what they consider too much testing. But it also cuts down on educators’ ability to track a student’s progress — and, some say, lowers standards, academic rigor and expectations.

“By lowering the standards or by lowering how much it takes for someone to get out of high school, essentially what you’re doing is making them less prepared with they get to college," said Michelle Hamilton, a college and career readiness adviser at Texas State University.

Not everyone considers fewer tests a lowering of standards. But there are some new pilot projects around the state to meet future remediation needs.

Dominic Chavez, a spokesman for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, offered an example of a student who scores poorly on a college’s math placement test.

“Rather than throwing them into a semester-long course in remedial math, where maybe they only have a problem with one concept, letting that student actually enroll in a college-bearing course in math, but giving them a tutor," Chavez said. "Or making them go to a math lab where they can fix the one area that they’re not proficient in."

So everyone’s getting ready for something, but it’s likely to take a couple of years to gauge the effects of new legislation.

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