Weatherford Democrat

Local News

July 20, 2012

Districts get look at how students fared with STAAR

PARKER COUNTY — The 2012 State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness preliminary results are in and, as expected, district administrators found strengths and weaknesses within the test scores.

The testing system, which replaced the TAKS, was unveiled in March.

Districts across Texas had the option of deferring End-of-Course exams, which are part of the STAAR testing system, that would account for 15 percent of a student’s grade, until next year.

Though the results won’t officially count, the state released its averages for schools to compare.

“With it being the first year, there was a lot of anxiety going in not knowing what the test might look like,” Springtown superintendent Mike Kelley said. “But it wasn’t quite as different as we had feared.”

The last few months, districts presented their preliminary results to the school board, with mixed feelings on the variety of subjects.

Weatherford superintendent Jeffrey Hanks said that even though no accountability ratings would be administered from the state this school year, the district’s initial STAAR EOC results definitely would be used as a measuring stick in preparing for the 2012-13 school year.

According to results put out by the Texas Education Agency, Weatherford ISD met the passing standard in reading, writing, algebra I, geometry, biology and world geography. In addition, Weatherford students also exceeded the state’s average in reading, writing, biology and world geography, falling just below the state average by 1 percent in geometry.

Springtown likewise had above-average statistics, with students exceeding the state average in algebra I, biology and English I reading. Springtown scored at the advanced level in geometry.

“We fared about the state average, but our goal is not to be average, and we adjust to the new assessment system, I’m sure we will continue to improve,” Kelley said. “Overall, we’re pleased but we certainly recognize there’s a great deal of work to be done.”

District administrators agreed that more work was the biggest difference between the STAAR and the TAKS, as the STAAR’s reputation, padded by the number of tests students must take, was more severe.

“Even at the initial phase-in level, the STAAR passing standards require students to demonstrate more in-depth knowledge, critical thinking and application skills than did the TAKS,” Hanks said.

Poolville, Millsap and Peaster ISDs surpassed the state’s average in most subjects as well.

“According to the released state averages, our students are above in every category on the high school campus,” Peaster superintendent Matt Adams said, using algebra I as an example. Peaster had an 87 percent passing rate compared to the state’s 83 percent.

Poolville topped the state in English I reading, English II writing and algebra I, falling within 20 percentage points of the state average in biology and geometry.

Millsap students had an 80 percent or more passing rate in algebra I, geometry, biology, English I and world geography, and at least 60 percent passing rate in English II reading.

“We were pleased with the results in some areas and we are obviously in the process of planning to improve,” Millsap superintendent David Belding said. “We do have some areas of strength, so we have a lot to build off and we feel comfortable to be up to the challenge.”

Brock ISD had well-above passing averages compared to the state, surpassing the minimal standard in every category. For example, Brock had 89 percent compared to the state's 50 percent passing in English III reading and 73 percent compared to the state's 38 percent passing average in English III writing.

Brock superintendent Richard Tedder said the statistics were a reflection of the STAAR testing system.

“The state writing scores of 55 percent and 38 percent passing indicate testing flaws, and the low scores in the English areas are an indication of poor test reliability,” Tedder said. “If our teachers test their students with the same outcomes, parents would be extremely upset and claim that the tests were not constructed properly.”

Next year, the STAAR will directly impact the students taking the exams, with results broken down into four phases: did not pass, which requires a retest; Level I, a minimum score that indicates unsatisfactory performance but does not require a retest; Level II, a satisfactory performance; and Level III, advanced performance.

“Now that this year is over, we’ll have a little familiarity, a little more comfort for next year,” Kelley said.

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