STAAR: FISD above state average

Frenship Independent School District students performed better than peers in STAAR tests at the state level, but in English, the number of students passing compared to passing scores of the same students two years ago were lower.

Frenship ISD received STAAR test results last week for ninth-grade students at Frenship High School and a few eighth-grade algebra students.

In all tested areas, Frenship students’ scores were better than the state average.

In algebra I, 93 percent of students passed, as compared to 83 percent of students at the state level.

The biggest hit seemed to occur in reading and writing scores.

A year ago, as eighth-graders, 95 percent of the students passed the TAKS test in reading. Two years ago, 98 percent of the same students passed the TAKS test in writing.

This past spring, 77 percent of the freshmen passed in reading and 69 percent passed the math portion of the new STAAR test. Statewide, 68 percent of students passed the reading portion of the test and 55 percent passed the writing portion.

But of the students who didn’t pass, some get a “pass” on having to retake the test or associated courses. Some students were able to get a “minimum score” enabling them to avoid summer school. In reading and writing, 86 percent and 79 percent of students met at least the minimum requirement, respectively.

Those students will have to score much higher on upcoming tests because the minimum score will be added to scores for English II, III and IV end-of-course exams, or the STAAR test, and the total composite score has to equal a minimum score for graduation.

That means 14 percent and 21 percent of freshmen in reading and in writing, respectively, have been asked to take summer school and retake those tests in early July, according to Darryl Flusche, assistant superintendent of instruction.

If they do not, they will have to take the coursework again as sophomores.

Flusche said the difference in numbers meant extra teachers had to be asked to come in to teach summer school, which might cause a budget issue.

However, students in fifth and eighth grade will not be held back as a result of STAAR tests, so no teachers will have to teach summer school to elementary or middle school students as a result of STAAR test performance.

The students who met the minimum score but not the satisfactory score will be encouraged to retake the test, Flusche said, because the state will accept the highest score, not the most recent. Improving the minimum score could add points to the composite score of their senior year.

Flusche said the district does not even have test results back for grades three-eight. That data won’t be released to the district until the fall, he said, possibly in October.

The assistant superintendent said it is difficult for students, teachers and administrators to face down a test on which they have so little information. The difference in writing scores are particularly troubling, he said.

“We need to figure out, what are the characteristics that are now expected with writing,” he said, adding, “that in the past have not been an expectation at the state level.”

“What holistically changed in writing, that what we were doing before is wrong?”

Flusche said that unlike tests like the ACT and SAT, old tests are not available to prepare for the format of the test. Even this year’s tests will not be released. Since teachers are forbidden by law from looking at the tests, they still aren’t sure what the tests contain.

Flusche said his reaction to the test is that he knows how hard the students, teachers and administrators worked to take the new test this year.

“I wish that this accountability system could measure kids’ progress without the immense amount of pressure that’s put on our staff,” he said. “I’m glad we have some results, and I look forward to the additional information that we get from the state.”

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