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Jackson County schools ready with solutions for next year's STAAR test

By Bianca Montes
July 21, 2014 at 2:21 a.m.


Educators in Jackson County are poring over preliminary results for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness exams, looking for trends in success and areas that need improvement.

Edna

The Edna school district saw pockets of excellence in its 2014 preliminary results and are taking a deeper look into what's working.

Many grade levels that have improved have a block model for reading and math, and the district wants to expand that model to other grade levels, said Nancy Day Sandlin, curriculum and instruction director.

High school algebra passing rates jumped from 52 percent to 79 percent.

Many areas tested last year, such as algebra II, geometry, chemistry, world geography and a separated English test, weren't comparable because the subjects were dropped from the test in the 83rd Legislative session.

Growth was visible, but educators strive for 100 percent scores, Sandlin said. English scores need improvement.

"We are implementing an eight-period day at our secondary campuses to provide additional time for those students who need additional time for reinforcement and remediation in math and reading," she said. "We're also looking at ways to increase the rigor and relevance of the courses for all students, which will help us decrease all student performance gaps."

While third- and fifth-grade students improved in all areas, fourth, sixth, seventh and eighth saw passing rates at 40, 50 and 60 percent. The biggest decline was in eighth-grade social studies, which went from a 52 percent passing rate in 2013 to a 42 percent passing rate this year.

"We are aware of our successes and failures and have delved into the data to construct plans for our district in setting goals," Sandlin said.

Ganado

Ganado school district is hiring a curriculum instruction specialist to help academically align the district, interim superintendent John Hardwick said.

Across the board, grade levels had highs and lows, with eighth-graders pulling in a 100 percent passing rate in algebra but only hitting about the halfway mark in science and social studies.

Those outliers is what the district will focus on, Hardwick said.

Hardwick said the district specifically found room in its 2014-15 budget for the specialist because they wanted to better prepare students for the next round of testing, especially in areas in which substantial drops were seen, such as seventh-grade math and eighth-grade science.

"You don't always go to the smoke," he said. "Sometimes, you don't go to the seventh or eighth grade because the fire may have started in the fourth, fifth or sixth grade and came to a head in the seventh or eighth grade."

The district also will work toward examining English I and II results because of the test changing this year.

Hardwick said they're still able to see how well the high school students did on components and will use that to improve the low scores.

"Ganado can do better than that," he said. "We know we need to look at that and see if it were the way it was tested or the way it was prepared."

Industrial

Industrial school district has a history of scoring high on state testing and continued that tradition this year, curriculum director Shelly Dominguez said.

"One of the things we look at is how the state did and compare that to how our kids did, and we just really did above and beyond," she said.

The school district exceeded state average scores in all areas except high school U.S. history.

This year, the exams will be returned to the schools, and Dominguez said that will give educators a better understanding of which questions were missed and allow them to go back and look at how that curriculum was delivered to the students.

"We want to figure out what it was the kids were missing," she said.

Last year, high school students were given two separate tests for English - reading and writing - and this year, the subjects were combined. Dominguez said the preliminary results show a vast improvement.

"We are doing well, but we certainly know we have a higher mark to reach in the future," she said, stating that STAAR tests are harder and presented in a different format than previous state testing. "It changed, and the students from elementary on were used to a different test, and when they changed it, it was a difficult shift for a lot of our kids to make."

Third- through eighth-grade students did well, Dominguez added, earning 100 percent passing rates in algebra 1 - a high school level course - and eighth-grade math.

"The teachers, they do work extremely hard; they are always looking for ways to improve, and they take what they do very seriously," Dominguez said. "They put in an extraordinary amount of time, and we also have good parent support and communication."

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