Refugee students are required to take the state assessment, or STAAR test, within one year of entering the school system starting in the third grade.
Education leaders believe it's unfair for students like Ambrazian Muangara. She's a junior at Cooper High School. Five years ago Ambrazian and her family came to Abilene from the Congo. She is part of a larger political refugee population.
Most of the children attend school and learn English as a second or even third language. Some have never learned in a school before. It's the same test taken by students who've lived in Texas their entire lives.
"It's really hard for me," said Ambrazian. "Especially, since English is not my first language. For me to take that test is really hard. I try, but I haven't passed it in a few years."
Ambrazian is on track to graduate high school next year, but that may come to a screeching hault if she can't pass the state test.
"The hardest part of the test is just me understanding the questions they're asking me and sometimes I really don't know what the question means," said Ambrazian.
During the test, refugee students are allowed extra time. They can also get very limited help from an interpreter or teacher. Cooper High School principal Karen Munoz feels the consequences of failure don't account for the whole picture.
"Not allowing them to have a high school diploma because they can't pass the state assessment test on one day is just truly not right for them and for what their hopes and dreams are going to be," said Munoz.
Ambrazian also plays soccer at Cooper, but she has dreams of going to college and studying business management.
"If I don't pass it, I can't go to college and for me to have career, for me to have a better job, I have to get to college," said Ambrazian.
Texas State Representative Susan King is working to change the one year exemption policy.
"What we want to do is reinsert the exemption to make sure they're language proficient before they have to stand for this test so that could be up to three years," said King. "To add on to that up to two more years if these students have never been in a formal school setting."
King brought Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams to Abilene ISD to give him a better understanding of the challenge the students and the district face.
King said, "Although he (Williams) did come and I think he was very touched by the situation, he still is hamstrung by the federal government."
Texas schools are forced to follow federal rules. That's why the exemption is only one year.
For now, King is petitioning the state. Abilene ISD said 33 different languages are spoken by students. Including 13 added in just the last four years. The district has grant for two refugee interpreters, but it doesn't cover their complete salaries. School leaders say it's just not enough.
"The State's expectation is that we will have these kids academically ready," said Executive Director of Federal Programs Jeff Brokovich. "That's very difficult to do when you can not speak the child's language."
"I wish I didn't have this problem," said Ambrazian. "I wish I was like other kids."
International Rescue Committee Resettlement Director Susanna Lubanga said, "It's just like if we enrolled and American student at a German high school, they wouldn't necessarily during the first year be able to take standardized German testing because there needs to be that time if adjustment and take language into consideration."
For Ambrazian this test means more than just passing.
"This test will open lots of doors for me and it will help my future," said Ambrazian.
The Texas Education Agency gave this statement: In accordance with state law, a student who meets the criteria of being an unschooled asylee or refugee, can be granted a one-year exemption from the STAAR test during the year the student is first enrolled in a U.S. public school. This only applies to students taking the grades 3-8 STAAR test. Due to federal law the exemption is limited to only one year.
The total number of refugee students in Abilene ISD is 277. This numbers changes daily due to mobility and completion. 45 students arrived during the 2012-2013 school year. The largest increase happened in 2009-2010 with 100 students arriving.