Testing, retention discussed at SISD meeting

A local regulation regarding retests on the new STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) exams was discussed during the Sweetwater ISD (Independent School District) Board of Trustees' meeting on Monday evening, September 17 at the Administration Building.Last year, the district examined retention and the impact it made within the district. Several years ago, a policy was passed--in accordance to state guidelines--which determined passing and testing requirements for some grade levels.With the new STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) exam, the test is now considered as part of their end of course grade for high schoolers. To retest, students must also undergo a minimum of 15 hours of tutorial time prior to retaking the exam, as required by the state.These hours could be met with tutorial times or summer schooling, in which the latter shocked and surprised some parents.With these new state requirements, SISD wants to put a regulation in place where students would retest at the next appointed time. By doing so, students who fall short in more than one test could avoid a pile up of retests.The regulation would require high schoolers to retake the exam either the following December or July. For the December testing, the required 15 hours of tutorials could be done with a tutorial time that is in place at the school toward the end of the school day. But for the July retests, the summer school program would have to be used for the tutorials.By putting the regulation in place in the Student Handbook, the district hopes it will encourage students to pass their first test or take the retest at the next available time. No action was taken on the issue, but it is yet to be seen if future state legislation would make the matter a formal policy.Last year, with the STAAR test in its initial year, the state released the results of the tests and retesting requirements later than anticipated. In addition, reading the new results on the STAAR tests was confusing as well, making it difficult to determine if the student passed or not.Now that the district has had a year to learn more about the state test, they should have a better idea on discerning pass or fail rates. In order to inform parents of freshmen and sophomores about the regulation and other aspects of the tests and retesting, the district hopes to hold a parent meeting at a later date.Sweetwater ISD Superintendent Terry Pittman said, "We want to do everything we can to make sure that--first of all, parents and students are informed about all the new tests and its requirements, and second, that we do the best job we can in preparing students to be successful on the End of Course Test and, if needed, a retest."