Former College Station school district students who did not graduate because of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills — TAKS, the previous version of the current STAAR standardized test — will have alternative ways to earn their diplomas.
These students, who entered high school before the 2011-2012 school year, are those who have met all other graduation requirements but are missing one section of the TAKS test. That one missing end-of-course exam has prevented them from officially graduating, even though they are no longer attending College Station schools.
Trustees unanimously approved the alternative graduation requirements as part of the consent agenda during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.
Students who are missing just one TAKS or TAAS (Texas Assessment of Academic Skills) end-of-course exam come back each year to try to pass the one they do not have, whether it is English, math, science or social studies, Superintendent Clark Ealy said.
“We have at least 10 kids that we know of that have been coming back every summer” or during the several times of year the test has been offered, CSISD Director of Student Services Chrissy Hester said. “They come to remediation, and they’re frustrated. They’ve passed all their courses, so we are very excited that we’re going to be able to help. … We’re very excited to be able to have a committee to help those kids actually get their diploma.”
“We say kids, but they’re young adults,” Ealy added.
The state has allowed for districts to organize individualized graduation committees that can approve a student to graduate despite not completing all end-of-course exams.
Hester told the board Texas has given school districts between May 3, 2018, and Sept. 1, 2019, to review these students’ merits and allow for them to graduate using the same committee-based approval system.
Although the state gives them until Sept. 1, 2019, Hester said, she does not believe they will need that long.
There will be eight local requirements to evaluate when determining these students’ eligibility to graduate: their grade in the class; their score on the TAKS or TAAS standardized test; performance on projects or work samples in test areas; remediation participation; school attendance rate; their transcript; career and technical education (CTE) course completions; and other academic, work or life experience relevant to the committee regarding the students’ graduation.
The district will work with high school staff members who have kept in contact with these students to reach out to them about the opportunity.
Random student drug testing
During Tuesday’s meeting, trustees also continued the conversation about random student drug testing. Ultimately, the purpose of the random drug testing is to help provide students an “out” or a means to combat peer pressure and a deterrent against drug use.
As the board continues its discussions, CSISD Chief Administrative Officer Greg McIntyre said, it will have to make decisions about who will be subjected to the random drug tests, how many students will be tested, how subsequent testing will be handled, the appeal process and consequences for positive or “non-negative” tests.
Based on previous discussions during board meetings and by administrators, the students subject to the tests are high school students involved in extracurricular activities, students who have a parking pass, or those who opt in to the program. Some students may fall into multiple categories, but they will only be included on the list once. This could include up to 900 students with flexibility to add in some middle-school students also. Orientation meetings would be held for both students and parents.
The selection would be done through a double-blind process in which the district submits a list of eligible students, who are assigned numbers by the testing company. The numbers are selected at random, and the identity of the students is not known until the number and name are matched.
No one connected with the district or any high school has any part in the selection process.
If the district tests 30 students and wants to have 15 males and 15 females, McIntyre said, that can be accommodated.
In addition to alcohol, the list of substances tested in the nine-panel drug test are marijuana, cocaine, amphetamine, opiates, phencyclidine (angel dust), barbiturates (central nervous depressants), benzodiazepines (such as Valium and Xanax), methadone and propoxyphene (Darvon).
Sample pricing through the Harris County Department of Education Co-op shows the nine-panel-plus-alcohol drug test to cost $20 each. Tests for K2 or synthetic marijuana will be $40.
In an example, McIntyre said, if 60 students were tested during each of nine testing sessions during the school year using both the nine-panel and K2 tests, it would cost the district $32,400.
Parents will be allowed to request a retest of the original sample by another approved lab for a $150 fee, which will be paid for by the parent.
A positive test must be confirmed by a second test of the same sample before it is reported to the district as a positive or non-negative test. A student who has a positive result would automatically be included in each round of random drug tests for the rest of the school year.
In McIntyre’s presentation, he said, students with a positive result will continue to be allowed to practice, but they will not be allowed to travel, dress or compete or perform in their extracurricular activity during a specified time period.
The first non-negative report would have a consequence of a 15-day sit-out period. The second has a 30-day time frame. The third positive test has a 365-day sit-out period. Each of these time periods is based on calendar days, not school days.
Students would be allowed to appeal the result, but they will still be kept from participating in their activity while the appeal is pending.
Before a positive result is submitted to the district, the testing company would contact the students’ parents to identify any prescriptions or foods that may have triggered a positive test. Those responses are then confirmed by calls to the family doctor and pharmacy. Once the process is complete, the result is submitted to the district.
The board also continued its discussion about the budget, which currently is projected to have a deficit of $4.7 million.
Certified taxable values will be available July 25 before the board adopts the budget and tax rate Aug. 21.
Trustees will discuss the budget during the workshop portions of their June and July regular meetings June 19 and July 17.
June’s meeting will include the compensation plan and staffing update, while July’s discussion will also include a budget with another staffing update.
CSISD directors and staff submit staffing and budget requests to administrators, who will review each of them.
Trustees also unanimously approved the following items:
• The purchase of interactive classroom display equipment for Wellborn Middle School in the amount of $343,481 from Avinext using 2015 bond funds.
• The purchase of desktop computers and monitors for Wellborn Middle School, STEM labs at A&M Consolidated Middle School and College Station Middle School, and various other campuses in the amount of $771,379 from Avinext using 2013 and 2015 bond funds. The 2015 funds will cover the purchases for Wellborn Middle School, and the 2013 bond funds will pay for the equipment going into AMCMS and CSMS labs.
• The purchase of uninterruptible power systems and battery backup for Wellborn Middle School in the amount of $53,437 from Avinext using 2015 bond funds.
• The purchase of furniture for portable classrooms for College Station High School for the amount of $57,640 from Educator’s Depot, Inc., using the 2017-18 general fund.
• The purchase of desks for A&M Consolidated High School for the amount of $59,378 from Dallas Midwest using 2017-18 general fund.
• A request for proposals for athletic training supplies to 10 vendors effective June 1, 2018, through May 31, 2019, renewable for two additional one-year periods.
• The purchase of band instruments for A&M Consolidated High School for the amount of $54,075 from The String and Horn Shop using the 2017-18 general fund.
• The purchase of track resurfacing for A&M Consolidated High School for the amount of $212,750 from Texas Sports Builders using 2013 bond funds.
• The purchase of roof coating for College Station Middle School in the amount of $134,829 from Hi-Mark Roofing using 2013 bond funds.
• The purchase of new baseball bleachers and press box for A&M Consolidated High School for the amount of $184,300 from Sturdisteel using 2017-18 general fund.