TAKS scores in SSISD above statewide averages
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

June 17, 2005 - The spring Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test scores are in for Sulphur Springs Independent School District, and the good news is that overall, the district scored higher than the state average in most categories, especially reading, social studies and English language arts, district Director of Elementary Education Connie Mabe said Monday.

The bad news is that the majority of this year’s TAKS scores, which will count toward the district ratings, are lower than those recorded in 2004. Fifth and 10th graders continue to struggle in science, while the math test is a problem for students in grades eight through 10, according to data provided by the school district.

The only areas students had better passng percentages this year than last were fifth grade math; fifth, seventh and ninth grade reading; and 11th grade English language arts.

Ninety-four percent of the 11th graders taking the social studies test scored passing percentages, while 82 precent of the 10th graders passed social studies and 81 percent of the eighth graders tested passed the social studies test.

Only 10 percent of the 11th graders in Sulphur Springs who took the English TAKS test did not pass, making them among only 13 percent of Texas 11th graders required to retake the English test.

The percentage of fifth graders passing the reading test increased 2 percent this year to 95 percent. That’s also 20 percentage points higher than the state average this year.

Seventh graders had a 93 percent pass rate in reading compared to a 90 percent pass rate one year ago, and to the 81 percent rate at the state level.

Ninth graders had an 88 percent passing rate on the reading test, 1 percent higher than last year and 6 percent above this year’s state average.

Third graders, for the second consecutive year, had a 98 percent reading passing rate.

The only other test group which had the same percent pass rate as in a previous year was ninth grade math. Only 55 percent of SSISD’s ninth grade students tested passed the TAKS math test. Throughout the state, only 56 percent of freshmen had passed the math test as of the spring semester.

Eighth graders in Sulphur Springs also had a pass rate of 55 percent on the math test, a drop of 20 percentage points from last year and 6 points below this year’s state average.

Eleventh grade was 2 percentage points less than last year’s 77 percent pass rate in math.

Tenth graders had the lowest passing percentage in math, with 47 percent. Last year’s sophomores scored a 62 percent pass rate. The statewide average was 58 percent this year.

Ninety-three percent of Sulphur Springs fifth graders who took the math test passed this year, 2 percentage points higher than in 2004 and considerably higher than the state average of 79 percent.

Fifth and 10th graders scored near the statewide average in science, while 11th graders were well ahead of their peers. (The science test is only administered to fifth, 10th and 11th graders.)

Of the 10th graders, 51 percent in SSISD passed the science test this year, not far off the statewide passing rate of 54 percent for all Texas 10th graders. Sixty-three percent of Sulphur Springs fifth graders passed the science test, which almost mirrors the state total of 64 percent.

Eleventh graders, on the other hand, were ahead of the state averages at 80 percent passing. The state passing rate was 79 percent.

To bolster science and math scores, the district will be implementing a new aligned curriculum at each grade level, which will also be available online to parents, to ensure teachers cover material Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills curriculum on which the TAKS test is based, according to Mabe. A special consultant, skilled in TEKS curriculum, was also brought in to help align curriculum in troubled subjects.

Math teachers attended a special workshop this summer to better train them in strategies for teaching the TEKS math curriculum, which involves more material requiring in-depth critical thinking and problem solving.

Summer school is under way at Lamar Elementary for students through grade five and at Middle School for sixth through eighth graders needing extra help to prepare them for the TAKS test. Any students not yet passing one or more portion of the tests will have another opportunity to take the test this summer.

A two-week summer TAKS tutorial session will be offered just prior to the summer administration of the TAKS test.

Students passing the TAKS test administered this summer who meet all other requirements will be promoted to the next grade level or will receive their diploma, according to Mabe.

A “sheltered” algebra class is being offered this year in place of the standard Algebra I class for high school students struggling in math. The class is designed with a smaller student-teacher ratio, to provide these students “a little more small group instruction” and opportunities for more one-on-one instruction in problem topics.

A special TAKS class will be added at the eighth grade level for students who need additional tutorials in TEKS materials to better prepare them for ninth grade testing. For struggling ninth graders, curriculum specialists are recommendign a “discovering algebra” course, which offers more hands-on problem solving applications in algebra.

For science, teachers will coordinate science activities to the new aligned curriculum. In grades one through four, hands-on science experiments will be conducted one day each week utilizing portable science labs to better prepare them for the TAKS science test in fifth grade, the first time the students are subjected to science testing.

Mabe said that with the standard error of measure increases by 1 to 1 percent each year, meaning that the state “raises the bar” one level each year, requiring students to do better on the test each year in order to meet the passing standard. In other words, the students will have to answer more TAKS questions correctly each year in order to pass the test.

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