By Cheryl Posey
Students, parents and educators alike breathed a sigh of relief during the second week of June when Governor Rick Perry signed House Bill 5 into law. HB 5 embodies significant changes to high school graduation requirements, the state assessment system and the state accountability system.
The law requires Texas high school students to pass five end-of-course exams instead of the previously required 15 EOC exams as part of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) testing program. The five remaining exams that will be tested are English I, English II, Biology, Algebra I and U.S. History. These EOC exams must be passed in order for students to graduate from a Texas public high school.
Up until the passage of this law, the English tests were assessed as separate reading and writing exams, each lasting four hours and given on different days. But starting in spring of 2014, the English I and II reading and writing exams will be combined tests given on a single day. However, high school students who have to date passed English I or English II reading but not English I or English II writing (or vice versa) will still need to successfully complete the second test to meet graduation requirements.
Students who have previously not met satisfactory performance on one or more of the required English tests and will retest this July and possibly again in December will still take the separate tests, but if they are still retaking in spring of 2014, they will begin to take the combined English tests with the new test takers.
Assessments in Algebra II, geometry, English III, chemistry, physics, world geography, and world history have been eliminated from the testing requirements. As a result, the July 2013 STAAR administration will not include assessments for these courses.
Since accelerated instruction (summer school and special tutorial classes) is required for students who are not successful on STAAR tests, many students who had not been successful on the above eliminated tests were signed up for summer school and July retesting by the last day of school this year. However, since those tests were eliminated and will not be retested, those students are now not required to go to summer school or retake these tests.
HB 5 also eliminates the 15 percent grading requirement. Under the rule previously connected to the STAAR end-of-course examinations, a student’s score on the STAAR end-of-course exams would have counted 15 percent of the student’s final grade in each tested subject area. The STAAR end-of-course cumulative score component has also been eliminated.
In regards to graduation requirements, House Bill 5 creates a single “Foundation Diploma” and eliminates the minimum, recommended and distinguished graduation plans that are currently in place. It allows students to earn endorsements in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); business and industry; public services; arts and humanities and multidisciplinary studies. House Bill 5 also creates a distinguished achievement level above the foundation diploma that can be attained in any of the above mentioned endorsement programs by completing an additional science and math credit.