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VISD STAAR results remain below average

By Carolina Astrain
June 13, 2013 at 1:13 a.m.
Updated June 14, 2013 at 1:14 a.m.

The Victoria school district's state assessment scores continue to remain below the state average.

While preliminary State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) results show some gains from last year, all testing areas remain below average with the exception of the district's eighth-grade reading scores.

For eighth-grade reading, VISD met the state's 84 passing percentage with an 11-percentage-point improvement over last year.

Other areas that saw significant gains from 2012 included eighth-grade math, fifth-grade math and fifth-grade reading.

"We're excited about that (the increase in percentage points), but it's just a starting point for us," said VISD Superintendent Robert Jaklich. "But that doesn't mean we're happy with where we are at."

Campuses with some of the lowest STAAR passing percentages include Shields Elementary School, Patti Welder Middle School and the Juvenile Justice Center with Victoria East High School close behind.

"The state is asking a lot from our kids, especially when we have students coming in with limited educational backgrounds," said Kathy Bell, a fourth-grade Dudley Elementary School teacher. "Some of them haven't even been to pre-K or know their letters and colors."

Bell said she doesn't have a problem with students being tested, but she does think students need more time to prepare for STAAR.

Madi Marek, 16, an incoming junior at Victoria West High School, said she failed two of her STAAR exams this year - geometry and world history.

"We didn't really learn anything we needed to in class," Madi said. "It felt like our teachers didn't care if we passed or failed."

Madi's younger sister, Megan Marek, 13, an incoming eighth-grader at Patti Welder Middle School, said she passed all her STAAR exams this year.

"Scores would get better if more people tried harder," Megan said. "I didn't have trouble with STAAR this year, but I know a lot of people did."

Megan said she feels as if she almost failed her seventh-grade math exam because of the deluge of worksheets assigned in class.

"We didn't do enough hands-on stuff, and I almost failed that test because of that," Megan said, adding that her school's current curriculum framework "hasn't done us any good."

Liberty Academy, a high school campus with a college-credit focus, ranked the highest out of all the high school campuses in 10 different categories.

"We have a challenge with a plan," Jaklich said. "Now we just need to roll up our sleeves and get to work."

With the new additions and alignment in the district's curriculum, instruction and accountability department and a new seven-period schedule for high school students next year, the superintendent said he expects to see a rise in test scores.

"We're adding new resources, personnel, programs," Jaklich said. "We still have a lot of work to do with the high schools."

Under the new seven-period day, the school day will end at 4:10 p.m. instead of 4 p.m. under the A/B blocked scheduling.

And for students who have decided to take the new optional eighth period, the school day will end at 5:00 p.m. under the new schedule next year.

"The seven-period day is going to help us address our attendance issues because now students will be in class every day," said Tami Keeling, VISD school board president. "We're working on creating an individual plan for students in VISD."

The superintendent said he's also looking forward to the state releasing STAAR studying materials that students are expected to receive this year.

"Before, we didn't have that," Jaklich said.

Under House Bill 5, which was recently signed by the governor, the number of STAAR exams Texas students will be required to pass in order to graduate will be reduced from 15 to five.

"I think the State Board of Education needs to inform parents on how this test was created," said Nina DiLeo, a Victoria Business and Education Coalition mentor. "It seems they're still testing the test."

DiLeo has two children at VISD schools, one in elementary school and the other in middle school.

"I'd love to learn more about how teachers feel about it," said DiLeo. "It still seems there are quite a few flaws, so that's frustrating as a parent."

As a volunteer tutor and mentor for VISD students, DiLeo said she witnessed the challenges students and teachers faced this year with STAAR.

"I saw the kids struggle with the test, and I don't know if I'd like to think of it as an improvement over TAKS," DiLeo said. "I don't know if they've proved that yet."



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