Bills filed to help high school seniors who fail STAAR exam

Bills filed in the 85th Texas Legislature would make Individual Graduation Committees a permanent fixture.

AUSTIN - The legislators behind the creation of Individual Graduation Committees (IGC) during the 84th session have filed bills to make them permanent.

Under the Friday night lights, defensive back Corey Daniels plays for Connally High School. He performs well on the field and in class. Like most seniors he is looking forward to graduation, but there's something standing in his way.

"That's the English I and English II STAAR test," said Daniels.

"My English I, I've taken it nine times. My English II I've taken it six times," he added. "I'm always close to passing. Always. Some tests are by 10 points. Some are by five."

Obstacles don't stop Daniels. He's overcome Hurricane Katrina, the death of his father and has been taking care of himself since he was 15. And he's trying to pass these tests. This school year, he gave up having a free period, a coveted luxury for seniors, to take an extra test-prep class.

"It's helping, it really is. And I've been to every class, I've never missed a day and I'm pushing it," said Daniels.

But he can't help but to feel defeated by a test.

"It's really hurting me and it's really like, devastating my self esteem that I just can't get past it."

Daniels is not alone. According to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), in 2015, 28,000 Texas students weren't eligible to graduate because they failed one or more sections of the STAAR exit exam.

"The folks at NASA never took a TAKS or STAAR test and yet we muddled our way to the moon," said state Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo).

Seliger, with the help of state Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Houston), passed a bill last session creating the IGC. The committees create a pathway to graduation for students who have passed all their high school classes and three out of the five STAAR exit tests. They're made up of a student's teachers and parents and assign additional work or projects to allow the student to graduate. but the bill establishing them expires Sept. 1, 2017.

Seliger and Huberty have filed Senate Bill 463 and House Bill 966, respectively, to make IGC permanent.

"We've spent 13 years trying to get them to graduate and be productive citizens, yet we're going to say because they can't test, pass one test, we're not going to let them graduate," said Huberty.

Daniels re-took his STAAR exams in December. He is hopeful he passed this time, but if not he is eligible for an IGC.

Daniels said he looks at it as a tool to reach his future goals of going to college and becoming a football coach.

"If I'm a coach and I go teach somewhere, and I have a student that's failing with the STAAR test, if it's still there, I've been through that, I've pushed myself forward and you can too," said Daniels.

Some have questioned if IGC make getting a diploma too easy. According to the TEA, during the 2014-2015 school year 12,077 students across the state were assigned an IGC and only 6,279 went on to graduate. That reflects two percent of all Texas students who graduated from high school.

(© 2017 KVUE)


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