For a second year, Texas high schools will not be required to count new end-of-course exams as part of a student's grade, Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams announced Friday.
The decision comes after Republican Gov. Rick Perry suggested the requirement's deferral and backed a proposal to allow school districts to individually decide whether to implement it. The new rule sets the results of tough new state exams to count for 15 percent of a student's final grade.
"While we must continue to adhere to our state's accountability system, we must also recognize the importance of local control," Perry wrote in a letter to Williams, according to The Texas Tribune. The letter marks the first time the governor has publicly taken a stance on the issue.
The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, made its debut in March as a more rigorous replacement for the previous Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. But just before the STAAR's first administration, then-Education Commissioner Robert Scott responded to pressure from lawmakers, parents and school officials by deferring the 15 percent rule for the 2011-2012 academic year for lack of school and student preparation.
Students are still required to take the STAAR exams. Those in grades five and eight must pass the reading and math portions to be promoted, and high school students must pass the exams to graduate.
Williams's Friday decision rolls back the 15 percent rule for the 2012-2013 school year as well, reflecting growing resistance to emphasis on standardized testing in the state that laid the bricks for school accountability and the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Eighty-five percent of the state's school districts, representing 91 percent of all Texas public school students, have adopted a resolution against high-stakes testing. The petition says the tests are "strangling our public schools" and calls on the state legislature to develop a system that more accurately measures student learning.
"Deferring the 15 percent rule for this school year relieves some of the pressure being felt in Texas districts as we continue the transition to a more rigorous accountability system,” Williams said in a statement Friday. “This deferral also allows the Texas Legislature ample opportunity to address the various issues and concerns that have been expressed about implementation of the new system.”
Republican state Sen. Dan Patrick also filed a bill this week that would let districts themselves decide whether to implement the 15 percent rule in the future.
In anticipation of the STAAR, this spring the Texas Education Agency released resource sets for student preparation. Based on some of the released sample questions for the eighth-grade exams in math, science, reading and social studies. Would you be promoted to the ninth grade? Test your knowledge below: