Students took the first round of STAAR tests in reading and math April 9 and 10. This initial set of results represents just four of 22 STAAR tests that will be given this spring across content areas and in grades third through 11.
Fifth and eighth grade students who did not meet the minimum passing standard of “approaches grade level,” will have a chance to retake the test this month during the second of three administrations.
Early overall results saw increases in eighth-grade math and fifth-grade reading.
Eighth-grade math increased from 50 percent in 2018 to 55 percent in 2019.
Fifth-grade reading increased by one point from 63 percent in 2018 to 64 percent this year. Eighth-grade reading stayed the same at 59 percent, while fifth grade math fell two points from 74 percent in 2018 to 72 percent in 2019.
In a comparison of the performance of the same group of students from one year to the next (referred to as a cohort) the results show growth in all four areas.
Eighth-grade math rose to 55 percent, a 9 percent increase compared to how the students performed in seventh grade in 2018.
Eighth-grade reading rose to 59 percent — an 8 percent increase —compared to their seventh-grade scores, and fifth graders increased by s6 percent in math (73 percent) and reading (64 percent) from their fourth grade scores in 2018.
An area that is particularly pleasing to district officials is the increase in the percentage of students reaching the “meets grade level” and “masters grade level” performance standards. One of the district and board goals is to increase the percentage of students scoring “meets grade level” to meet or exceed state averages by 2024, a news release from the district said.
Accountability results are released by the Texas Education Agency in August.
Associate Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Lilia Nanez said the week of May 13 that ECISD was in the middle of the final testing cycle.
She said the recent preliminary results confirm that what they’ve focused on has made a difference.
“We are really focused in on making growth, or helping students grow for every content area and grade level and the cohort data shows growth,” Nanez said.
Cohort data shows how a group of students performed last year compared to how those same students performed in the current year.
Nanez said ECISD has been focusing on getting more students to achieve at the “meets” level on STAAR, which means grade level or higher.
“We don’t consider ‘approaches.’ The state considers it passing, but technically they’re below grade level, so we’ve really been focusing on getting more kids at the ‘meets’ level so we’ve seen some gains there at the ‘meets’ level,” she added.
However, the district still below the state level.
In math, last year’s fifth-graders scored 41 percent at the “meets” level. This year, they were at 42 percent for math. The state level was 56 percent.
In eighth grade math, 22 percent were at “meets” this year, up from 16 percent in 2018. The state rate for meets was 55 percent in eighth-grade math.
In fifth-grade reading, ECISD had 36 percent at the “meets” level and it was the same in 2018.
The state was at 51 percent “meets” for fifth-grade reading.
In eighth-grade reading, 32 percent were at the “meets” standard, compared to 26 percent in 2018. The state had 53 percent at “meets” for eighth-grade reading.
“We’re significantly below the state average, which is worrisome but we’re working really hard to make gains,” Nanez said.
Executive Director of Secondary Education Robert Cedillo said math and English language arts/reading are subject areas that need improvement.
“As a district, we implemented the short-cycle assessments, which lends itself to evaluating data and adjusting our teaching strategies in a timely manner to meet the needs of the students. That alone was a big step towards student learning,” Cedillo said in an email.
The next two objectives are to support teachers and build effectiveness.
“What does that look like? To support teachers, we want to build a master schedule within our school day where teachers have time to learn, collaborate and build their knowledge in curriculum and assessment. The goal is to build that time on a daily basis, or as frequent as possible. We want to truly build a learning and team environment, especially for our new teachers,” Cedillo said.
On effectiveness, Cedillo wrote that the district is working to refine its teaching and learning process, specifically with short-cycle assessments.
“The short cycle assessments allow us to diagnosticate and identify the needs of our students and re-teach based off the assessment data. The beauty of the short-cycle assessments — it’s short, the data can be evaluated quickly and (turned around) back to students. When teachers start to see that their students are learning from their mistakes after the re-teach, that’s when the teachers begin to feel effective. The re-teach is extremely critical. That’s when students — or anyone for that matter — learns the most (when we learn from our mistakes). We in ECISD have great teachers who already have this practice in place; it’s just of matter of streamlining it across the district,” he said.
“These two items work hand in hand. If teachers have a team of colleagues they can learn from, evaluate standards with, study assessments and data on a frequent basis, teachers will feel supported and feel effective, which in turn will lead to student learning,” Cedillo added.
Nanez noted that 265 teacher vacancies has been a factor in STAAR scores.
“I don’t like to blame, but I think the fact that we have a lot of teachers that are not certified that’s a big issue. If you’re a long-term sub, we may have some long-term subs that stay for the long haul, but teaching is hard and when you are not under contract, you can just not come so we do have like a revolving door of subs that we’re having to train, and then retrain, and then retrain, so I’m not blaming it all on that, but it is big factor,” Nanez said.
“We don’t have the people that have that content knowledge to deliver that instruction. That’s the biggest challenge that I see that we face,” she added.
Nanez said all of the Permian Basin is experiencing the teaching shortage.
“There are teacher shortages all over the country, all over the state, but not to this degree. When we do find quality long-term subs, we work with them. Our content people work with them. We have lesson plans that we provide for the subs,” she said.
There are several programs in place or being implemented for the district to grow its own teachers.
It’s been five months since Nanez started at ECISD.
“… I’m really proud of the entire leadership team, campus leadership team, C&I (curriculum and instruction). They’ve just really, really worked hard so we’re making steps toward the direction where we want to go but nowhere are we satisfied yet,” she said.
Nanez noted that short-cycle assessments are now in place to help monitor student progress.
“Our data process is in place and we’re just refining our PLC (Professional Learning Communities) process now to make sure that we’re discussing the right things during that quality time that we spend talking about student achievement and moving kids forward,” Nanez said.
“We’re rebooting that professional learning training next year,” she added. “There’s a framework that we follow. There are four essential questions that we need to address during a professional learning community meeting and we want to make sure that we target … those four questions. We haven’t had training in the district in many years, so we’re going to reboot that.”
Those four essential questions are what are we supposed to teach? How do we teach it? What do we do we when students don’t learn what’s being taught? And what do teachers do they do learn it?
Deputy Superintendent Stephanie Howard said results drive professional development.
“They drive your focus areas going into the next year, and then from the student perspective, it drives what it is that specific student needs. If they wind up going to summer school because of a third administration, that’s very specific to what the student needs and they work specifically with the students whether it’s individually, or (in) groups of students on the specific areas they’re struggling with,” Howard said.
The first and second administration count in state accountability, but the third administration does not.
“It counts for the student, but not for the school or the district,” Howard said.