Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal
The reality of the TAKS test looms above the heads of several seniors this year at Alice High School, as those who passed will walk the stage, and those who haven't will not.
At Alice High School, graduation numbers show that of 302 seniors, 98 students will not be graduating during spring commencement ceremonies on Friday. There are 35 AHS students not graduating Friday because of their performance on the TAKS.
Of those, 16 students are not graduating because of their TAKS performance, while 19 are not graduating because of TAKS and grades.
AHS Principal Berta Longoria said the total is 12 percent of seniors, which is below the 16 percent statistic given by the state.
According to DeEtta Culbertson, with the Texas Education Agency's Communications office, there are 244,346 seniors in the Class of 2007 in the state of Texas. Of those, 16 percent, or 40,182, did not pass one or more sections of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS).
The school district does have the authority to allow seniors who have not passed the TAKS to walk during graduation.
Those students would not receive their diploma until they pass the TAKS exam.
In the area, San Diego ISD allows those seniors who did not pass TAKS to participate in graduation ceremonies.
Seniors have had five opportunities to pass the TAKS exam since their junior year. They will have another opportunity to take the test during the July test administration.
This year, AHS will graduate 18 students on the distinguished achievement plan, and 187 under the recommended plan.
"We'll have more than 68 percent of our seniors graduating above and beyond this Friday. We do everything we can to offer these students a chance to meet the state requirements," Longoria said. "I know students are upset about not graduating, I'm sad about them not graduating, but I'm very proud of the 204 students graduating."
Those students not graduating on Friday will still be counted among the graduates for the Class of 2007 when they come to summer school and if they pass the TAKS exam administration in July.
"We have encouraged them to come to summer school, and they will graduate as the class of 2007," Longoria said.
Some, though, don't think it's fair these students can't participate in graduation Friday night.
Linda Linton, a grandmother of one of the seniors who will not graduate on Friday, said students were told at AHS as early as Monday whether they were going to graduate based on their TAKS performance.
"It would be an embarrassment for the district and degrading for the seniors to not have those students walk during the graduation ceremony. There are other students in the area who get to walk during graduation. There are quite a few parents upset about this," Linton said.
Linton ranks the importance of the TAKS test well below the 12 years of hard work and effort her granddaughter and other seniors put in over the years to make good grades and get to this point.
"Some of these students may not have the opportunity to go to college. Some of them will probably go straight into the workforce after this, and Friday might be their only opportunity to experience a graduation," she said.
"This is unfair. If they passed all their regular courses, then they should be allowed to walk across the stage with their class. I place it in the Lord's hands. Hopefully he'll open (administrators') hearts and they will let the seniors walk across as a whole class, and not as half a class."
There are 103 seniors at San Diego High School. Ninety-three will receive their diploma Friday night. The others will not graduate because seven did not pass the TAKS, two did not make the grades and one didn't pass the TAKS and came up short in coursework.
The situation is somewhat smaller at Orange Grove High School, with 98 students in their senior class. In all, 93 students there will be graduating tomorrow, while four students will not because of their TAKS, performance and their credits, with one student not graduating because of poor attendance.
Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco High School, with a senior class of 42 students, will have six seniors missing their diplomas tomorrow, three because of credits and three because of the TAKS test.