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Concern Or Praise For STAAR Passing Rates Results?

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Results from end of course standardized tests show Texas students faring best in the areas of math and science, but falling considerably short in English and on the writing exam.

The latest STAAR passing rates were released Monday.

According to Debbie Ratcliffe, with the Texas Education Agency (TEA), only about 50-percent of Texas students passed the English I and II portions of the test.

The performance numbers could change the upcoming plans of some students. "Those [English portions] are still required for graduation under House Bill 5, which the governor has now signed," Ratcliffe said. "So, those students, many of them will probably be going to summer school to help bolster their writing skills."

House Bill 5 lowers standardized exam requirements, dropping the number of tests high school students must successfully complete to graduate and changing the amount of English, math, science and social studies courses needed to earn a diploma.

"At the high school level for English I and II, which are tests typically taken by freshmen and sophomores, about 54-percent of the freshmen passed the writing test," Ratcliffe said. "Almost 53-percent of the first-time testers passed the English II writing test."

And the definition of "passing" a particular portion of the STAAR test may not be what you think. Students can pass most of the exams by answering fewer than half the questions correctly. So, when you consider that on the 2012-13 STAAR test 82.1-percent of Texas students passed Algebra I, you must also consider that freshmen can pass Algebra I by getting only 20 of the 54 questions correct -- an accuracy rate of 37-percent.

Higher passing standards for STAAR exams are being phased in. The first phase happened in January of this year; resulting in sections like 5th grade reading requiring a passing percentage of 57-percent instead of 54.

Higher standards will be phased in again next year and the "Final Standard" is scheduled to be implemented by the 2014-2015 school year.

Ratcliffe said under House Bill 5 the STAAR end-of-course exams will be reduced from the current 15 to five -- eliminating tests for subjects like chemistry, geometry and world geography.

Passing the STAAR test is still required to graduate from Texas high schools. Any student who failed the first two tests still has a third testing opportunity on June 25th and 26th. According to state law, if the student doesn't pass that attempt they will be retained in their current grade unless a parent appeals and a placement committee unanimously agrees to promote them.

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