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Texas Students Begin STAAR Testing

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Students across Texas are beginning STAAR standardized tests this week. Exams start Monday for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness in English I and III writing.

On Tuesday, students take 4th grade writing exams; math exams for grades 5 and 8; and hold the first day of writing tests for seventh graders. Subsequent tests will follow throughout the week with Friday as a makeup day.

STAAR is replacing the much-maligned Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.

Its scores had been set to count 15 percent of ninth graders final grades in core subjects. But the state decided to allow districts to defer that requirement for one year.

STAAR costs $90 million annually to administer, or $3 to $7 per test given. That's slightly more than its predecessor cost.


Feud erupts at Dallas-area birthday party, 1 dead

At least one person was shot dead and seven others were hurt when a fight erupted at a traditional birthday party for a 15-year-old girl near Dallas.

Ellis County Sheriff's Lt. R.D. White says Sunday the argument at the quinceanera - a traditional party for a girl turning 15 - rapidly turned violent, according to The Dallas Morning News reported. By the time police arrived, four people had been shot, two had been stabbed and two beaten. At least one person died of a gunshot wound, and one of the other victims is 11.

White says the names and medical conditions of those involved are not yet being released. However, he says the injuries have made it difficult for police to figure out what happened at the family gathering.


Teachers, lawmakers hold schools rally at Capitol

Hundreds of teachers and students from school districts around Texas have rallied at the state Capitol to denounce $5.4 billion in education cuts approved by the Legislature last summer.

U.S. Democratic Representative Lloyd Doggett joined state legislators from his party and some members of the Texas board of education for a march and series of speeches. A booming high school percussion section made sure Saturday's demonstration stayed loud.

The Legislature does not reconvene until January and Republican majorities control both houses. But Democrats have promised to make increased spending on education a priority.

Texas' growing population means its public school enrollment increases an average of about 80,000 students per year.

That growth plus budget cuts has made the state's spending per pupil decline by more than $500 since the last budget.


Banning illegal immigrant renters pricey, divisive

The Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch has spent five years and nearly $5 million trying to ban illegal immigrants from renting apartments in the city.

Court challenges have kept the law from taking effect, including a federal appeals court ruling last week. Yet city officials say they're likely to press on.

The fight has pushed the city, a quiet collection of bedroom communities and office parks, into the national illegal immigration debate. Local Latinos say it also has made legal immigrants and U.S. citizens feel unwelcome in Farmers Branch, where Latino populations have fallen in recent years.

City officials and law backers argue illegal immigrants create strains on schools and police resources. They also note that local voters supported an early version of the law five years ago by a 2-to-1 margin.


Rare Honus Wagner card could fetch $1.5 million

Bill Goodwin of suburban St. Louis has been in the collectibles business for a quarter of a century, but he says the 102-year-old baseball card he's putting up for auction is about as good as it gets.

Goodwin will begin an online auction for a 1909 Honus Wagner baseball card, one of the most sought-after sports collectibles in the world. Goodwin expects the card to fetch at least $1 million and perhaps as much as $1.5 million.

The card is owned by a Houston businessman who has asked not to be identified. The auction starts Tuesday and continues through April 19.

It isn't the only valuable card that is part of the auction. Goodwin is also auctioning a rare Eddie Plank card that could be worth up to $500,000.