STAAR scores below state average for VISD freshmen

June 14, 2012 at 1:14 a.m.

Freshmen in the Victoria school district scored lower on each section of the STAAR test than their counterparts across the state.

On Thursday, VISD released scores from the first-year students who took the state's new standardized test - the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness.

Results show the more than 800 Victoria students scored between four and 12 percentage points below the state average on each end-of-course test, which include Algebra I, biology, world geography, and English I reading and writing.

Less than half of VISD freshmen passed the English I writing test, which is one of three writing tests they'll have to pass to graduate high school. They performed the best in biology, with 78 percent passing.

"This is an adjustment period for staff and students, and we know we can do better," Susanne Carroll, VISD's executive director of curriculum, instruction and accountability, said in a press release.

The percentage of passing students is derived from a scale that takes into account the difficulty level of questions. The passing standards are being phased in until 2016. That means passing the tests will gradually become more difficult in coming years. For example, while 83 percent of Texas students passed the algebra test this year, only 39 percent of them would have passed had the final passing requirements been in place.

The STAAR is considered to be more difficult than the test it is replacing - the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. To compare, 96 percent of this year's VISD freshmen passed the last writing test they took - the TAKS writing test in seventh grade.

"It's not like they passed their (seventh) grade test, and in the ninth grade, they forgot how to write," said Diane Boyett, the district's communications director. "With STAAR, expectations are higher, and the grading standards are tougher in terms of the weighting of the scores," she added.

Last year's freshmen are part of the first class that must pass 11 to 15 end-of-course exams, depending on their degree plan, in order to graduate. Older students will graduate under the TAKS test.

Students who did not meet the minimum score on a test will be required to retake it before they can graduate. But the STAAR also calls for students to achieve a minimum cumulative score in the content areas of English, math, science and social studies. Thus, a student could potentially meet the minimum score for each of the biology, chemistry and physics tests. But when those scores are averaged, the student may come up short on the cumulative science score needed to graduate.

Those who earned a "minimum" score and who worried it will weigh down their average can also retake the end-of-course exam.

VISD is offering a STAAR Acceleration Activities tutoring program to help students prepare for the retests.

In coming years, the STAAR end-of-course exams will count toward 15 percent of a student's final grade in a class.

"The STAAR tests represent very high stakes testing for our students and it behooves everyone to work together to make certain every child has the foundation for success," Carroll said in the press release. "Even though there are quite a few tests to take, every one of them counts toward the future of a child. This is a big deal."

Final STAAR results for grades three through eight aren't expected to be available until January. The district should release TAKS scores for older students next week.

The Texas Education Agency suspended its district rating system for a year while it phased in the STAAR test. VISD will maintain its Academically Acceptable rating next school year.



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