The state assessment scores were received for the Robstown Independent School District last week. Robstown ISD, like all other districts in the state, is assessed annually by the state of Texas tests.

The TAKS tests were administered to students in the third through the 11th grades. The rigor of the tests given to students today is more difficult from 10 years ago.

The TAKS test determines whether students will be promoted. The current laws exempt very few students. Juniors are required to pass all five sections of the TAKS before the end of their senior year in order to graduate. Juniors are afforded five opportunities to pass all of the exams in the areas of math, science, social studies, reading and language arts.

School districts, like students, are required to perform at higher standards. For example, in the past special education students were exempt from taking the state exams by the Admission, Review, and Dismissal committees. The committees are required by law and are comprised of the parent, teacher, principal and special education staff.

The committee determines an educational plan for the student being considered for placement in special education classes. The committee's decision is final unless the committee changes the Individual Education Plan at a future date. Board members or administrative staff cannot change the IEP for the special education student.

Current law allows districts to exempt only a small percentage of special education students. In the past, if you were in special education you were automatically exempt from taking the state exams. The new laws prohibit exemption of the majority of students in special education.

School districts believe that "All students can learn," then let us meet the challenge. Districts should allow all students to take the exam, with the exemption of the severely disabled. This idea, of course, worries many districts, but if we are to educate all students, we must disregard their identified disabilities and give them the opportunity to experience taking the test in the early grades.

New laws such as Annual Yearly Progress, a federal law, hold school districts accountable for all students, not a select few. This is the way it should be. The current more rigorous test restricts the wholesale exemption of students with disabilities. This federal mandate places districts in a very challenging situation and our parents and patrons should know this.

We, as educators, are not seeking excuses for lack of performance, but I feel that parents should be aware that the standards for the ever-rising bar of excellence keep moving higher.

This year (2008), the RISD earned an "Acceptable" rating. All of our campuses received an "Acceptable" rating and two campuses, Lotspeich and San Pedro elementary, received "Recognized" status.

We are very proud of our students and staff because they continue to do a terrific job for our community and schools. We like other districts tested most of our students, exempting only a few due to identified disabilities.

In 2010, all Texas students will be required to pass exams that are more rigorous. The exams will not be called TAKS, but "End of Course Exams" which are predicted to increase in difficulty. The bar will be raised, but again we must rise to the challenge.

Again, I encourage parents to get involved in schools from elementary to high school and beyond.

Roberto Garcia is the superintendent for the Robstown Independent School District. Readers may contact him via telephone at 767-6600, ext. 2223.