NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Nacogdoches High School U-S History Teacher Kimberly Dolese has been a teacher collectively for more than 19 years. She teaches U.S. History at Nacogdoches High, where their campus like others around the state are undergoing STAAR testing.
As Regional President of the Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE), Dolese's focus goes beyond her East Texas classroom and to the statehouse in Austin. Her organization is concerned for students struggling to pass the five End of Course Exams needed to graduate.
"Some kids don't test well. They may be brilliant but they're not good testers," Dolese said. "Those children who either don't learn like the others, don't test like others or are multilingual--English is not their first language. So when it comes to writing in English it is very challenging for them."
So ATPE government relations office began lobbying lawmakers for a new bill. In November 2014, Amarillo-area Republican Senator Kel Seliger who sponsored Senate Bill 149 filed it in the Senate. It's an alternative to graduation for students who under perform on the high-stakes testing. To graduate, Texas high school seniors have to have passed five "End-of-Course" exams in Algebra, Biology, English one and two; and U-S History. These high-stakes exams are part of the STAAR test
"May be it's because of the pressure and they simply get nervous," explained Jennifer Canaday, ATPE's Government Relations Manager. "And the anxiety overcomes them [the students]."
SB 149 moved out of Senate Committee on March 11, 2015 and on the 17th it went before the full senate for a vote. It passed overwhelmingly, with only two Dallas area senators voting against it.
And one reason why ATPE says its supporting this bill and hoping it becomes law, so that students who are successful in the classroom but are having trouble with testing will have an alternative route to graduation."
"Those students who either don't learn like the others, don't test like others or are multilingual--English is not their first language, Dolese said.
If a student fails their exit-level STAR test, the bill calls for a committee of administrators, teachers and the parent to evaluate 15 categories of the student's entire high school academic performance.
As for the battery of some 26 tests Texas school students are evaluated by each year, Canaday says they have evidence that students and teachers are stressed over testing because of its impact.
"We've always been concerned by the fact that so much is riding on this singe test that gets administered one day out of the year," said Canaday.
While the STAAR test season goes on, ATPE and concerned juniors will their attention on the state house.