Abilene ISD offical testifies to lawmakers on behalf of refugees students

AISD offical testifies to lawmakers

ABILENE, Texas - The battle over state testing for refugee students in Abilene ISD keeps on raging.

Refugee students are required to take state testing within one year of entering the public school system.

State Rep. Susan King of Abilene has presented a bill to the Texas House to provide more flexibility in testing standards for refugees.     

Abilene ISD Associate Superintendent of Curriculum Cathy Ashby testified before the House Education Committee in Austin about the unique situation refugee student's face. She said she's hopeful her testimony will move the bill forward and give some relief to these students.

"I think the main point I wanted to get across to the Public Education Committee was that there's a difference between a language barrier and a child that's unschooled," Ashby said.

King's bill addresses both of those issues. Earlier this year she spoke about her bill.

King proposes to, "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, till they're ready. Then to add on to that up to two more years if these students have never been in a formal school setting."

The current legislation reduces the number of tests all students would have to take from 15 to five. However, that may not solve the refugee's unique issue.

"If they're struggling with testing 15 tests or five tests it doesn't matter. They're still going to have a hard time reaching the goal of graduating," Ashby said.

At this point, it's up to the Texas Education Committee and Senate to decide which way to vote. As of Monday, there are 279 students that this refugee bill would affect in Abilene alone.

There are a total of 32 languages spoken by these students. Currently, the district has two interpreters to teach the entire refugee population. The interpreter grant that the district has could be cut due to sequestration.

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