Tag: sb149

But They Have to Pass STAAR to Graduate

I can’t tell you how tired I am of hearing this.  Parents of kids as young as third grade hear this.  Some parents have even been told that passing STAAR in elementary school is required to graduate high school.  We’ll file that claim as “too stupid to merit a response.”  But let’s consider what underlies these types of claims being made to parents of younger students.  The only reason to mention the EOC requirements to a elementary or middle school student as a reason to take STAAR is an underlying belief that taking the 3rd to 8th grade STAAR somehow prepares the kids for their high school EOCs. (EOC is what STAAR is called in high school.  Every EOC is a STAAR and there are no high school STAAR assessments that are not EOCs). Let’s consider three reasons why this argument is weak.  First, the Grade 3-8 assessments are generalized grade level (in theory) academic assessments untethered from any specific class content.  The EOCs on the other hand are designed to assess content mastery at the end of a specified course of instruction.  These are two different objectives, and they should not be conflated.  Second, there has never been any demonstration that simply taking STAAR makes students any better at taking it the next time.  To the contrary, the research tends to show that the kids who pass one tend to pass others and kids who fail are not somehow elevated to passing by more test taking practice.  Finally, it ignores the fact that the curriculum is packed with assessments – whether part of the class or part of district benchmarking – designed to mimic STAAR.  Your students will have no shortage of “practice” before their first EOC.  But let’s get back to the point.  Do you really have to pass STAAR to graduate?  The answer is no.

Now, let’s be clear.  Passing all five EOC assessments is one way a student can meet the requirements for graduation from a public high school.  (Notably no such requirements apply to private schools or home schoolers.)  But it is not the only way.  What are the other ways?

  1. Use substitute assessments.  Each high school EOC has one or more nationally recognized assessment that can be taken in place of the STAAR EOC.  If you score at the passing standard, then you have satisfied the EOC graduation requirement for that course without ever taking the EOC.  Pass all five substitute assessments and you graduate without ever taking STAAR.  Note, the existence of substitute assessments is a matter of state law.   Schools do not have the option to “refuse” the use of substitute assessments.  Likewise, they cannot require a student to attempt the STAAR EOC before accepting the substitute assessment.  No such rule exists.
  2. Graduate by IGC.  In 2015, faced with nearly 30% of seniors having failed to pass all five EOCs, the Texas legislature created individual graduation committees to permit any student who has failed to meet performance standards on two or fewer EOCs to graduate by vote of a committee of school staff and the parent.  This is often referred to as “3 of 5”, signifying that the student needs to have passed three EOCs to be eligible.  While this is not really complete, it is generally true for students who spend all four years in Texas public high schools.  So clearly the law allows graduation without passing all five EOCs and when schools omit that, it is purposeful.  In addition, any substitute assessment counts as one of the “three.”  As a result, the student could pass three substitute assessments, turn in blank EOCs on the other two, and then go to an IGC to graduate having never taken an EOC.  Or, a parent whose child already has finished three EOCs, or some combination of EOCs and substitute assessments could refuse the remaining EOCs and go to IGC.  Either way, five EOCs are not required to graduate.
  3. ARD Committee – For Special Education Students Only – If your child is covered by an IEP, they can graduate simply by the ARD committee accepting their “participation” in STAAR as sufficient for graduation.  There is no minimum number of assessments passed.  There are no retake requirements and no minimum score requirements.  This method of graduation does not preclude graduating with endorsements, honors or any other recognition.
  4. CVEP Program – One option for students who are unable to pass the substitute assessments or get to an IGC is the CVEP Program.  This method involves using your local public school for all instruction and activities needed for graduation.  Those credits are then transferred to an accredited private school which evaluates them, provides a short course of remote, self-guided instruction, and certifies the student for graduation.  One parent in this group used CVEP to save her child’s enlistment in the armed forces which was threatened by his failure to pass enough EOC’s to graduate.  On very short notice, they were enrolled in CVEP, completed the program, received transcripts and diplomas and successfully entered the armed forces.  The downside to this method is that there is a small cost (currently $500) associated with it.
  5. Homeschool Graduation – If an accredited diploma is unimportant to you, you can declare your child a home school graduate.  The downside here is that if your child is planning to attend college, you will not have the traditional homeschool documentation that colleges expect.  However, with the transcript from the high school they should accept his academic readiness.  We do not have any specific reports of parents successfully using this method to enter college or the armed forces.  I have serious doubts that this will work for the armed forces, as it is transparently not “traditional” home schooling.

So the next time the school tells you that you have to pass five EOCs to graduate high school, you can just nod knowingly and wonder whether they really don’t know or whether it is just more subtle intimidation for parents.

Jerk of the Week – Drew Scheberle, Austin Chamber of Commerce VP

The Jerk of the Week award is not given out every week. It’s only given out when someone engages in particularly jerky behavior. Our winner this week is none of than Austin Chamber of Commerce vice president (sorry, SENIOR vice-president) Drew Scheberle. Young Mr. Scheberle is quite the accomplished scholar. Growing up in the affluent Northern Virginia suburbs, Mr. Scheberle attended James Madison High School in Vienna, VA. James Madison is currently an 80% white/Asian-American school; presumably it was even whiter back in the 90s. Even today it’s Hispanic population is only 11% with African-Americans comprising 2% of the student body. Less than 6% of its students receive ELL services. Obviously, he is personally acquainted with the challenges facing Texas high schools. Following what we can only presume was a stellar high school career, Scheberle attended the private Trinity University (current tuition $36,000 per year). Here his exposure to African American students would have risen 50%, since they comprise 3% of Trinity’s student body.

Mr. Scheberle has earned this award for his testimony before the Senate Education Committee in opposition of SB 463, which would make permanent the extremely popular and successful implementation of Individual Graduation Committees that were created on a temporary basis by the 2015 legislature. Individual Graduation Committees let students who have passed 3 of 5 End of Course STAAR exams be reviewed on an individual basis for graduation with their class. These students must, at a minimum, have earned all the credits in the classroom that are required for graduation. A variety of factors are required to be considered and either a project or portfolio of work must be part of the process. Of course the Austin Chamber and the Texas Association of Business both opposed SB 149 in 2015, claiming it would lead to what they termed “social graduation,” playing on overstated fears of “social promotion.” Over the last two years, the data shows that nothing of the sort has happened. Rather, students are individually reviewed and carefully screened for readiness for graduation. Only about 2/3 of students reviewed are actually approved for graduation.

Believing it his duty to advocate for more test bubbling proficiency for graduation (a real world skill notably absent from any job requirements at any Chamber member we could find), Scheberle rose to the challenge! “Continuing to lower the bar is not helping,” said Drew Scheberle, vice president at the Austin Chamber of Commerce. “There are always going to be students who are right on the margin.” (Texas Tribune Article) .Now, it might be too easy to point out that a law that keeps the bar exactly where it is can’t really be said to be “lowering” the bar, but Scheberle was all in. Challenged by Sen. Kel Seliger, the author of SB 463, Scheberle was asked if he could support “the graduation of a student in Flower Mound who failed to pass one required [EOC exam] in social studies?” Snootily raising his Trinity-educated nose, Scheberle scoffed that “I would give her a GED if she earned it.” Bad idea, Drewski, bad idea. Sen. Seliger wasn’t speaking in hypotheticals. He was speaking on an actual FMHS student who graduated by IGC and now maintains a 3.6 GPA at Oklahoma Christian University. And he could have been speaking of any of the thousands of IGC graduates now making their futures in universities, community colleges, trade schools and the military, thanks to IGC process.  For many students who are English Language Learners, suffer from learning disabilities or medical impediments (and some who are just bad test-takers but perfectly proficient in the classroom), the IGC process is their only road to a diploma.  But for Country Club Drew, their worth and ability is only definable in terms of test bubbles.

For this amazing show of arrogance, snobbery and general jackassery, we congratulate Drew Scheberle, TPERN’s Jerk of the Week.