Preliminary TAKS test scores bring ‘good news’ for SS schools

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

June 14, 2007 - Betty Lawson, who oversees assessment, accountability and PEIMS data and programs for Sulphur Springs Independent School District, announced Monday "good news" regarding preliminary Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test results. SSISD improved in nearly all areas of the testing.

The state raised the minimum requirements on state accountability standards. Districts this year were required to have a 65 percent overall passing rate in reading/English language arts, writing and social studies to be ranked academically acceptable, and had to have 45 percent passing math and 40 percent passing in science. In order to be ranked recognized in each area, the district must attain a 75 percent pass rate and to achieve exemplary status a 90 percent pass rate.

Sulphur Springs students whose scores counted toward those preliminary rankings did better this year in all areas of the TAKS test except writing, with only two subgroups showing decreases in other subjects over last year's passing percentage. The results were all above the academically acceptable state percentage.

Overall, 92 percent of the students tested passed the reading test compared to 90 percent in 2006, ahead of the state average of 88 percent. In SSISD, whites scored highest at 96 percent, while economically disadvantaged had an 89 percent pass rate, Hispanics 85 percent and African Americans 82 percent. 

All four subgroups — African Americans, Hispanic, white and economically disadvantaged — showed marked improvement, with a higher percentage of students passing this year than last year in reading. They also either scored at or above the state pass average, with each group showing a pass percent of 82 percent or more on reading.

Math continued to be a low scoring area for district students, with 78 percent passing this year compared to the state average of 75 percent passing. But that's up from 76 percent overall in 2006, and above the required 45 percent to be academically acceptable.

While 59 percent of African Americans tested in math passed, up from 54 percent in 2006, that's still 3 percent behind the state average. Hispanic students also show signs of struggle in math; their pass percentage dropped 1 point to 68,s also 1 percent under the state average pass rate for math.

This year, 69 percent of economically disadvantaged students tested in math passed, compared to the 67 percent that passed in 2006, both slightly above the state average of 66.

Overall, 75 percent of all SSISD students tested this year in science passed, compared to the 71 percent that passed in 2006 and the state average of 70 percent passing.

Three subgroups, while meeting the academically acceptable standard, still show signs of struggling in science. Of the African Americans tested, 56 percent passed the science test, up from 53 in 2006 and just one point above the state average. Hispanics had a 55 percent pass rate, up one point from 2006 but still five points shy of the state average. Economically disadvantaged students tested in science had a 65 percent pass rate, up from 61 in 2006 and seven points higher that the state average. White students improved their pass percentage in science from 78 to 82 percent, 2 points shy of the state average.

Lawson noted that special efforts regarding the test scores are being made this year, including special training for science teachers and special attention given to these subgroups, with the ultimate goal to bolster science and math scores.

Students did well in social studies, with 89 percent passing the test which not only puts them at the state average but is a one percent increase over 2006. Fewer African Americans passed the social studies test this year than last, dropping from 83 to 77 percent, below the state average of 83 percent but still above the academically acceptable requirement of 65 percent.

Six percent more Hispanic students passed the social studies TAKS test than the 69 percent in 2006, but still below the state average of 84. White students were still under the state average of 95 percent passing, but improved over last year's 89 percent to 93 percent, which would earn an exemplary score.

Eighty-two percent of economically disadvantaged students tested in social studies passed compared to 76 in 2006, just below the state average of 83 percent.

While all SSISD subgroups save one, whites, scored lower on writing TAKS tests this year than last, all four subgroups still earned an exemplary score. African Americans scored the lowest writing percentage with 91 percent passing, 4 points above the state average. The overall writing scored dropped from 96 to 95, above the state pass average of 92. Ninety-si percent of white students tested in writing passed, the same as in 2006, and 1 point above the state average.

Lawson noted that while eighth grade science students' pass percentages on TAKS were noted on the preliminary report, they were not counted on state accountability ratings. While limited English proficient and special education students' pass percentages were included on annual year performance reports, they did not count toward state accountability ratings.

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