High school seniors who have failed their state exams may still have a shot at earning a diploma. A bill providing them a way around the requirement continues to advance in the Texas Legislature.
The state Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 149, which would allow panels made up of educators, counselors and parents to weigh factors like grades, college entrance exam scores and attendance to decide whether a student should graduate despite poor performance on state standardized exams.
Introducing his proposal on the floor, state Sen. Kel Seliger, the Amarillo Republican who authored the bill, said it was "not designed to provide some kind of easy exit,” but to give some qualified high school seniors a way to graduate if state standardized exams are the only obstacle preventing it. The law would expire in two years if the Legislature does not opt to renew it.
When the bill was heard in committee, some lawmakers expressed concern over the objectivity of a panel made up of educators who might be docked in school ratings if their student did not graduate. The plan has also received criticism from the Texas Association of Business and the Austin Chamber of Commerce, which argue that it would lead to even greater numbers of students graduating who are not adequately prepared for careers or higher education.
About 28,000 students in the class of 2015 still must pass one or more of the five state exams in U.S. history, biology, algebra I, English I and English II required to graduate. Of those in the class of 2015 who need to retake exams, about half must retake more than one.
“Not all 28,000 of these kids are going to be viewed affirmatively by these committees, but an awful lot of them are,” Seliger said.
The bill now heads to the House.
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