Three freshman-level tests are all that stand between Texas high school students and graduation after Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill loosening the state's graduation requirements.
Seniors must now have passed only three of the five STAAR exams they were previously required to pass -- algebra I, algebra II, English I, English II and biology -- in order to walk across the stage with their classmates. Algebra I, English I and biology are freshman-level courses.
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"The class of 2015 is the first graduating class required to pass the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) end-of-course exams in order to graduate. While it is critical that the state appropriately holds public schools and districts accountable for delivering the best possible education, we must protect Texas students from being penalized as a result of evolving testing standards," Abbott said after signing the bill.
Those standards he's talking about? Not the toughest things in the world -- the algebra I and biology exams only require students to get 37 percent of test questions correct to pass.
The law, Senate Bill 149, goes into effect immediately, giving the 28,000 seniors who've yet to pass all the required exams a lifeline. As long as they've got a passing GPA and can get approval of a special graduation committee, they'll be able to move on from high school.
Critics of the bill have said it amounts to social promotion, in addition to devaluing the diploma's of students who do pass the exams.