Several Galveston County education officials hope a new law could help long-struggling students graduate from high school.
Santa Fe, Dickinson and Texas City school district trustees recently passed resolutions taking advantage of Senate Bill 463, which allows local committees to consider alternative graduation requirements for students who couldn’t pass one or two standardized tests.
“It depends on how you look at it,” said Julie Southworth, director of secondary education at Texas City Independent School District. “There probably aren’t an overwhelming number of students who fall into this category. But, to be a student who wasn’t able to graduate because you couldn’t pass one or two tests, it’s a big deal to have your high school diploma.”
The law, which went into effect May 3 after Commissioner Mike Morath altered the administrative code, applies specifically to students who entered the ninth grade before the 2011-2012 school year. Those students would have taken the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills tests, which pre-date the current State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, as the state-mandated tests.
The legislation amended a 2015 law that already allowed for alternative routes to graduation for students if a committee approved, Santa Fe officials said.
Under the new rule, local committees including a district superintendent or designee, a district representative with expert knowledge in the failed subject area and the person seeking graduation would meet and evaluate whether the student should be eligible for a high school diploma, Dickinson officials said.
“The committee will look at several things — a combination of what they did in high school and also what they’ve done since high school,” Southworth said.
“They can go back and look at test results and see that, while they struggled in math, maybe they missed passing by a question or two. Or maybe they passed the class and just have test anxiety. They can look at overall transcripts and also look at work and life experience since leaving school.”
Committees should also consider whether a student has entered the workforce, enrolled in an associate or alternative degree certification program, enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program or enlisted in the armed forces, according to the bill.
Students that might be eligible for graduation under the new legislation have a limited amount of time to contact local districts, officials said.
The law is set to expire Sept. 1, 2019.
Texas City school officials are taking the opportunity to get the word out about the possibility, Southworth said.
The district has so far heard from one interested person and knows of a few others that might fit the requirements, Southworth said.