Texas Lawmakers Examine High-Stakes Testing in Lower Grades

When it comes to high-stakes testing, Texas lawmakers have so far focused most of their attention on high school students. But as more than 3 million students across the state begin to take standardized exams this week, some members of the Legislature are examining the plight of younger test-takers.

The state's ninth- and 10th-graders currently await consensus from legislators on key proposals in the House and Senate that would reduce the number of exams they must take to graduate from 15 to as few as five. But several measures in the Legislature, some of which the House Public Education Committee will hear on Tuesday, could also affect testing for students in elementary and middle school.

"At the elementary level, we've got a tremendous amount of stress over the way the test is structured and administered," said state Rep. Bennett Ratliff, a Coppell Republican who is on the committee.

Adding to the uncertainty for fifth- and eighth-graders in particular is another question: whether a lacking performance on the current exams will prevent them from moving on to the next grade level. Under state law, Texas Education Agency Commissioner Michael Williams must certify that lawmakers have allocated enough money toward remedial tutoring in the education budget to allow schools to keep back students who fail their state exams under a ban on so-called social promotion.

Williams has yet to announce his decision on that matter, though agency spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe said Monday he may reach one as soon as this week.

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