Testing week at high schools means late starts for some students

Testing week at high schools means late starts for some students

     High school students around El Paso who have completed their necessary STARR or TAKS tests are enjoying a week of late starts.

     ABC-7 spoke with students at El Paso and Bowie High School who said they were happy to have the time off, but wished they didn't have to come to school at all.

     Due to the testing, students who already passed the exams were asked to come to school at 12:45 p.m. Primarily junior and seniors partook in the late starts, but even some sophomores benefited.

     School ends around 3:45 p.m. for many El Paso high school students, meaning they only had class for three hours.

     At El Paso High, students told us they still attended all four of their normal courses. However, each class period was shortened.

     At Bowie High, students told us they only attended a few of their normally schedule classes, and usually watched a movie during one of their periods.

     The Bowie students said the movie watching, and brief class periods, seemed to be a "waste of time."

     However, the El Paso Independent School District told ABC-7 there is explanation for the varied school-to-school late-start programs this week.

     "We have a two week window for testing, this week and next week, and the district and campuses decided what is the best, what testing delayed starts would be best for that school," El Paso Independent School District Assistant Superintendent of Research, Evaluation and Testing James Steinhauser said.

     In that time frame, many students are completing their STARR testing. Other tests, like the AP tests and International Bacchaluarette tests are also held.

     One of the main causes of the late start is troubles with staffing.

     Certified teachers must administer the tests and stay with students for up to four hours, Steinhauser said.

     "If you have an English test that day and you have half your department that are part of administering that test, many of those teachers, their students, are not taking the test," Steinhauser said. "So essentially they'd be in a classroom, but they wouldn't be with their teacher."

Plus, funding isn't available to replace all the teachers.

"we're simply finding out that we don't have the staff and personnel," he said.

Another issue stems from the shift from students taking the TAKS test to the STARR test. Right now the state's testing requirements are changing, and that means different students at different grade levels must take different tests. Steinhauser said this has lead to difficulties in managing.

Students ABC-7 spoke with said they would have preferred to have the entire day off.

The district said half days are the best option.

"Part of it is for the average daily attendance and how the school gets funded," Steinhauser said. "So if we can get half a day, that's better than nothing." 

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