Ballinger student petitioned Texas lawmakers to reduce number of STAAR tests

Ballinger student still strugling with star tests lobbied for chances

BALLINGER, Texas - School is out, but for some students retaking standardized tests requires them to hit the books during the summer.

Ballinger High School student Jack Buxkemper plays the tuba in the school band. He acts in school plays. However, he's struggling to pass STAAR tests. After the third failed attempt, he felt defeated.

"It didn't only inhibit me from graduating," Buxkemper said. "It crushed hopes and dreams. It crushed what I could do for a living. It crushed my future."

Instead of quitting, Buxkemper took action. He testified before Texas lawmakers as part of an effort to get the number of tests lowered from 15 to five.

Buxkemper was also present the day Gov. Rick Perry signed House Bill 5 into law. The new law also eliminates exams counting for 15 percent of a student's final grading requirement.

Additionally, testing is only required in Algebra 1, English I & II and Biology and U.S. History. Buxkemper said that wasn't only speaking on his behalf but many others with similar challenges.

"I have a friend who's a straight-A student," Buxkemper said. "She doesn't have one B in her entire school life – and she couldn't pass one test that dictated her ability to graduate."

Buxkemper's mom Laura teaches at Ballinger. She recalled when she knew she had to fight for her son.

"The day he came and got me after the third test came back and he didn't pass," she said. "The day he came with tears in his eyes and I could see his frustration and that day I knew. It's just like a mama bear. I had to do something."

Laura said the last straw for her was her son wanting to drop out of school.

"I think as a teacher to hear your kid say they wanna quit is probably like the worst thing you can imagine," she said. "It's a feeling in the pit of your gut that you don't want to hear because we value education in our home."

Jack Buxkemper said, "There were kids who are here and didn't know what to do and didn't have the ability to reach out and get help and I feel as if I gave them a voice."

He still has to pass the writing portion of the STAAR test, but now he's approaching the exam with less pressure. Starting in the fall, the reading and writing sections will be combined, however Jack said he hopes to conquer this portion as soon as he can.

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