Standardized Testing

The standardized tests Texas students will take in the spring will be harder to pass. That’s because state Education Commissioner Michael Williams this week announced tougher grading requirements.

But student performance on the so-called STAAR test hasn’t improved as expected, and one education expert believes more students will fail.

Waking up early on a Saturday. Sharpened No. 2 pencils and a calculator. For teenagers headed to a four-year college, taking a standardized entrance exam such as the ACT and SAT is typically a requirement. But it's far from a universal experience.

In 50 of the largest U.S. cities, examined in a new report from the University of Washington, Bothell's nonpartisan Center on Reinventing Public Education, fewer than 1 in 3 students takes either of those tests in a given year.

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded Texas more than $2.6 million in grants to help low-income students take Advanced Placement tests.

“The cost of an AP exam is $91 and this grant knocks $16 off that price,” said Debbie Ratcliffe with the Texas Education Agency.

“We have other fee subsidies through the state, the local districts, and the College Board itself. So by the time all those fees are added together, those fee waivers, the cost of the exam can drop from $91 to only $7 for our low income kids.”

More and more kids are taking the tests.

Many high schoolers hoping to attend George Washington University in Washington, D.C., one of the top private universities in the country, breathed a sigh of relief this week.

GWU announced it will no longer require applicants to take the SAT or ACT.

The move comes after the school formed a task force to study the pros and cons of going "test-optional." GWU attracts lots of high-achieving students who do well on both exams, but the task force concluded that the school's reliance on these tests was excluding some high-achieving students who simply don't test well.

Both houses of Congress have now passed versions of the bill that would update the largest federal education law, known as No Child Left Behind, for the first time since 2001. They are big, meaty and complicated, and now they have to be reconciled into one messy Dagwood sandwich of a bill to go to the president.

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