AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — More than half of Texas ninth graders who last spring failed one or more of the state's new standardized tests skipped their chance to retest in July and could be knocked off track to graduate, a newspaper has found.
The Dallas Morning News reported (http://dallasne.ws/TASB8u ) Monday that passing rates on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, indicate that more than 50 percent of those who failed separate exams in English, algebra, biology and geography passed up the chance to retake them over the summer.
On the reading test, meanwhile, only about half the kids who failed retested this summer.
Of the nearly 107,500 students who failed the reading exam, more than 53,650 have not retested. In writing, nearly 152,300 failures led to about 73,300 students who weren't retested; and in algebra 1, there were nearly 32,300 students who didn't retest among the nearly 58,000 who failed.
For the biology exam, nearly 41,500 students failed but only about 17,600 chose to retest, and in world geography there were about 62,300 failures and around 27,400 retests.
Students' next opportunity will come this week when the five exams — including separate reading and writing tests for English I — will be given.
Under state law, high school students must get a passing average on 15 end-of-course STAAR tests to graduate. There are three exams each in math, science, social studies, reading and writing, although efforts will be made in the Legislature next month to cut that number.
Debbie Ratcliffe, a Texas Education Agency spokeswoman, said students who skipped the summer tests and plan to retake the exams over the next two weeks may not have used the best strategy to pass since more time has elapsed since they prepared for the test.
"Students who failed in the spring were strongly encouraged to retake the tests in July," Ratcliffe said. "What it means is that students who didn't retake them in the summer left themselves with one less opportunity to pass before graduation."
She said school districts were required to offer remedial classes to students who previously failed one or more of the exams. In many districts, that help was offered in summer school.
Ratcliffe's agency has released results for the spring and summer administrations of the exams — which showed that tens of thousands of students could not pass either time.
The task will get more difficult in coming years since officials set passing standards relatively low when STAAR was given for the first time last school year but will gradually make them more difficult over time.
That meant students had to correctly answer only 37 percent of the questions on the Algebra I and biology tests to pass; and 46 percent correct on the world geography test. To pass tests in reading and writing, students had to get more than 50 percent correct — and failure rates were the highest.
In writing, 40 percent — nearly 135,000 students — have yet to pass after two rounds of testing have been given. In reading, about 88,500 students, or 26 percent didn't pass. On the other three tests, the percentage of students who have not yet passed ranges from 11 percent in biology to 18 percent in geography.
The tougher STAAR passing standards will be fully phased-in by the 2014-2015 school year. Had they already been in place, however, less than half of all Texas students would have passed the five tests, including just a third of the total making the cut on the writing exam.
Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com