AUSTIN — Nearly one-fifth of Texas high school class of 2015 students are not on track to graduate because they still need to take at least one state-mandated exam, according to data released Wednesday.
The Texas Education Agency said 81 percent of high school juniors have passed all five of the required State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness exams.
But that means 19 percent, or nearly 55,000 students, still haven’t, despite a dramatic reduction in standardized testing requirements.
Amid criticism students, parents, teachers and even school administrators that too much testing was being done, the Legislature last summer cut the number of end-of-course exams high school students are required to pass from a nation-leading 15 to five. The remaining tests cover algebra I, English I and II, biology and U.S. history.
The class of 2015 will be the first to graduate under the new standards, and Education Commissioner Michael Williams applauded its performance so far.
“More than 80 percent of students in the class of 2015 face no state-mandated tests during their senior year,” he said in a statement. “With that academic success in hand, superintendents can now focus remediation efforts on the fewer than 20 percent of students still in need of passing end-of-course exams while ensuring that all students can graduate and achieve beyond high school.”
Nearly 9 percent of those now off-track to graduate need to pass just one exam, and the most-common is English II — followed by U.S. history, English I and biology. About 6 percent of juniors have two tests they’ve yet to pass and nearly 5 percent, or more than 13,800, have three or more.
There will be three opportunities for retesting before graduation next spring.
Students began taking STAAR in spring semester 2012.
The exam system was designed to be tough so as to better prepare students for college and career success, and to replace the long-maligned Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills testing regime.
Officials have long said that as students and teachers adjust to STAAR, scores will improve. The agency noted Wednesday that when TAKS was still new enough to be at the same point STAAR is now, 28 percent of students in the first graduating class hadn’t successfully completed all testing requirements by the end of their junior year.