Forty-four thousand senior high school students across the state have been left behind, including 10 students at Stephenville High School.
SHS Principal Travis Stilwell said the wording in No Child Left Behind makes him sick because “Obviously we’re leaving a lot of kids behind.”
Stilwell addressed the SISD Board of Trustees late Monday in favor of allowing 10 students who failed one part of the TAKS test to participate in graduation ceremonies scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday at Tarleton State University’s Memorial Stadium.
A local board policy doesn’t permit students who have not met all requirements, including TAKS, to walk with their classmates on graduation day.
In the end, the board voted 6-1 in favor of allowing the 10 students to participate if each would sign a contract agreeing to attend TAKS tutorials and to retake the test until passed. Dr. Rob Bashaw opposed the measure.
Still, the 10 students will not receive a diploma because they failed one TAKS test, even though they passed all course work and attended at least 90 percent of the time.
Stilwell spoke of how close the students were to passing TAKS.
“At least three were within one question - many were within three questions,” Stilwell said. “If they had been one year previous they would have graduated.”
Stilwell said each year the bar is raised higher, the passing standard increases and had the 10 students taken the test last year they would have all passed.
Stilwell handed board members copies of the math portion of the TAKS tests and said, “My proposal is that all congressmen have to pass this test and pass or they leave office. And if they pass they can take it in Spanish in three years.”
At this point Superintendent Dr. Darrell Floyd quipped, “With increasing standards along the way.”
Stilwell said he felt a lot of big political games were being played with casualties occurring.
“And, unfortunately, the casualties are our kids. It makes me sick,” he said. “They have set high schools up for failure.”
The board accepted Floyd’s recommendation that the local policy be deleted.
Floyd said the deliberation was one of the longest he could remember during a meeting and said he could see both sides of the issue.
Floyd said there was no limit on how many times a student could take the test but it will not be offered again until summer.
Bashaw said he was opposed to the decision because other students had been denied the same privilege in the past.
“It’s just a very difficult position,” Floyd said. “We have denied students in the past.”
But, Floyd said there were three things about this year that he felt influenced the board’s decision and why he recommended deleting the local policy, including:
The passing standard of the test increased, The more than 40,000 failures across the state, and “The state Legislature realizes the system is broken.”
Floyd said he believes the state will move from TAKS testing to end-of-course tests within this legislative session.
Another factor that might have influenced the decision, Floyd said, was the passage of Senate Bill 673, which allows any special education student to participate in the ceremonies with no completion requirements other than attendance.