It's that time of year again to bring out the cap and gown as family members pack venues across the country to see their family members walk across the stage and receive that diploma. But for many students in Texas, they will not be walking.
It sounds really sad and is a story that is being run on news stations across the state: Texas teens who did not pass their proficiency test do not get to don the traditional cap and gown and walk across the stage with their classmates.
The test is known as Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills or TAKS.
One story out of a coastal town called Robstown describes how seventeen deprived teens got in the face of the superintendent at an emergency board meeting. In a televised version of the story, one parent actually began screaming at him and the superintendent just walked away and called police.
When authorities arrived, they provided escort back into the board meeting so he could explain to the volatile parent and other citizens why the seventeen students were not participating in the commencement ceremony. The board meeting, called only to discuss the issue of graduation for these teens, proved a flop as only 2 of the 7 board members showed.
Students in Fort Worth marched in protest last year for the same reason. This year, a Fort Worth paper ran an article about how 14 percent of their students will be barred from graduation.
Another report out of Galveston shares the sad stories of 100 teens who will not be graduating with their friends because of the TAKS, with quotes from parents like:
“My daughter for the rest of her life is going to be punished for this test that’s irrelevant to her grade point average,” [the parent] said. “It’s going to ruin her life.”
Such a horrible thing to do - ban hundreds, maybe thousands of graduates from actually walking the stage due to one tiny exam, right?
Across the board and across the state in each of these reports lacks one tiny bit of info. Each and every one of these students has FOUR CHANCES to PASS this particular test before graduation in addition to their original testing.
The test itself is administered in the 11th grade, not their senior year as the news reports would have it believed. If a student fails this exam, which is based upon basic knowledge appropriate for their grade level and is divided into sections, they are provided four more opportunities to pass it prior to graduation. They must pass all sections of the exam. However, if they fail only one section, that is the only section they must retake.
If they have not yet passed all sections by graduation, they cannot, by state law receive a diploma. Why? Because they do not possess the basic skills to have a diploma. Like many other district policies, the state provides discretion on allowing students to walk the stage during commencement ceremonies and the majority of districts in Texas do not allow their students to walk the stage if they do not pass the TAKS, although a small percentage do.
Students still have one more opportunity to pass the TAKS after graduation ceremonies, usually in July, taking the total number for graduation TAKS test opportunities up to SIX.
The question that needs to be asked is WHY are these students not passing? Many students simply do not show up for the retesting opportunities, as may be the case with some of the students with higher grade point averages but who fail the TAKS the first time around. Others with low IQ scores have a difficult time with their GPA as well as the TAKS and require additional assistance. Some students get frustrated and give up, as the test is time consuming and method in which it is administered is quite regimented.
Aside from those who do not show for re-tests, if districts could pinpoint why those few students truly fail, they could focus on prevention.
The TAKS is not an exit level exam dumped on them at last minute but rather an exam administered in their junior year of high school to ensure that students possess basic knowledge and are provided ample opportunities to pass the exam.
See here for a copy of a released TAKS Exam.
One news report linked above did run this quote at the end of its story with regards to testing opportunities:
They have had several chances already to take the test and will have another chance in July.
Whether you believe in standardized testing or not, there is a basic level of proficiency that graduating students should possess in order to graduate. All students, whether they plan on pursuing a college degree, should be ready to do so right out of high school. Some parents feel that administrators should have to take the TAKS and pass but isn't enough that these individuals have already gone through college and must continue with classes designed to better their children? They have earned their degrees via their own testing. Their children should do the same.
I cannot imagine a college professor, or any other teacher for that matter, providing his or her students with SIX chances to take their final exams in order to receive their degree.