Goliad behind in reading, advanced in math scores

June 18, 2013 at 1:18 a.m.
Updated June 19, 2013 at 1:19 a.m.

GOLIAD - Students at Goliad High School are behind state averages in eight of 11 high school subjects tested in April.

The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness results show Goliad is especially behind in reading and writing classes - 14.1 percentage points lower in reading I, 11 percentage points behind in reading II and 7.7 points lower for writing II.

The high school students are leading the state in math scores, however, according to the reports. The school reported 100 percent of students passed the Algebra II test and 96 percent of students passed in geometry.

Christy Paulsgrove, superintendent of schools, said the students and teachers are struggling with the test because it is new and the guidelines for the test have not yet been set.

"It is a transition to the test. ... You do have to look at how the students are going to be asked something and what they are going to be asked so that you can make sure you are using strategies in your classroom for them to be successful. ... Kids will get better at it, and teachers will get better at it," Paulsgrove said.

For example, Assistant Superintendent Rebecca Walker said, the style of writing for the STAAR test changed drastically from the style of writing required in the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test, going from descriptive-based writing to facts-based writing.

"It is hard for kids who have written this way all these years to stop writing that way and start writing this way," Walker said. "So most of the kids are too wordy. That is the reports we are getting back. They just have to be retrained."

In first through eighth grades, the school district is above or right at the state average on most subjects tested from math to reading.

In a news release from the Texas Education Agency, Commissioner of Education Michael Williams acknowledged that the changing test and expectations make it difficult for teachers and students to excel.

"While we would have hoped to see an across-the-board increase in performance, the difficulty of the tests, coupled with the uncertainty of the testing program's future, likely impacted performance this year," Williams said. "We may find that with STAAR our performance increases gradually rather than in large bursts."

In an attempt to raise scores earlier this year, Paulsgrove instituted flex days during the Christmas break. Students who passed bench mark testing, had high attendance and good grades in class were allowed to miss extra days during Christmas break. Students who were at risk in the above categories came to school for intensive tutoring in subject areas they struggled with.

Goliad school parent Paige Taylor said her third-grade son worked hard during the year to take advantage of the flex days.

"Goliad actually went out of their way to prepare them for the STAAR test," Taylor said, proud of the school and teachers for putting in extra work.

Though her son did not attend the flex days, Taylor said, many of her son's friends who attended the extra tutoring ended up passing the STAAR test in April.

To make the tutoring more effective, Paulsgrove said the district is moving the flex days to spring break for 2013-14 so that the tutoring will be closer to the STAAR test.

Paulsgrove, who will retire Thursday after nearly 40 years in education, said too much emphasis is placed on the test results in evaluating children, instead of also looking at attendance, participation in extracurricular activities and grades in the classroom.

"I don't think the test teaches creativity, which I think is a real important part of learning. It will really help kids succeed in life if they can problem solve and be creative. This test does not do that," Paulsgrove said.



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