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Refugio school districts see improvements, declines on STAAR exams

By JR Ortega
July 31, 2014 at 2:31 a.m.
Updated Aug. 1, 2014 at 3:01 a.m.


The three school districts in Refugio County continue to see an ebb and flow in the results of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness exam.

While some grade levels excelled in certain subjects, such as English and mathematics, other grade levels needed improvement.

The solution the school districts seek is one that echoes that of districts throughout the state - push harder.

WOODSBORO

The percentage of math and science students that met state standards increased this year compared to last, according to results from the Pearson Education website.

Last year, Superintendent Steven Self boasted about how well the high school grade-level students scored in those two core subjects. Woodsboro school district used the University of Texas Dana Center to increase those scores, and for the second year in a row, the assistance is paying off.

"We were above or equal to the state and regional averages," Self said. "We were right there with them."

The biggest upset was in third- and fourth-grade reading, Self said. Third-grade reading dropped from 76 percent meeting state standards in 2013 to 67 percent meeting state standards this year. Fourth-grade reading dropped from 82 percent to 59 percent in meeting state standards.

"We've never had that happen," he said. "The test is different from the way the teachers had been instructing. Evidently, it didn't cut it on this test."

To improve those scores, the district is already hard at work, Self said.

This summer, teachers have attended workshops to help improve the scores.

Aside from that, the district is doing what it can to adapt to the exam's frequent changes.

"We understand there is going to have to be some changes in the way we teach," he said.

AUSTWELL-TIVOLI

The percentage of Austwell-Tivoli middle and high school students meeting state standards increased across all subjects this year.

Seventh-graders showed the biggest increase across reading, mathematics and writing.

For example, 81 percent of the students met state standards last year. This year, the percentage of students who hit that mark was 100 percent. Mathematics and writing in 2013 were also low - less than 70 percent met state standards. However, both scores this year increased to 90 percent.

The high school also stepped it up a notch, increasing its Algebra I passing percentage from 58 to 80. Students also excelled in U.S. History - a test in its first year.

Superintendent Antonio Aguirre Jr. wrote in an email how proud he is of the school district.

"We are a small school district, but that doesn't hinder our approach to the STAAR testing," he wrote. "Our teachers have done a tremendous job of preparing our students as indicated by the results."

For next year, the district will focus on subjects and grade levels with the lowest percentage that met state standards, he wrote.

The schools have done well thanks to the hard work of the teachers, he said.

"There is always room for improvement, and we plan to remedy any lower than expected results."

REFUGIO

Refugio High School saw the most improvement compared to the middle and elementary school in Refugio.

The percentage of Algebra I students who met state standards increased from 76 to 81, and the percentage of biology students increased from 95 to 100.

However, in English I and II, scores were below the 55 percentile. Other districts have said this is because the Texas Education Agency changed how it handled the English examinations this year.

The percentage of writing students who hit the state standard increased at the elementary school level while the percentage of junior high students dropped slightly.

Last year, Refugio, like many other school districts across the state, needed to improve in writing.

Superintendent Jack Gaskins was unavailable for comment.

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