The Central Texas and statewide scores for third- through eighth-grade students on the spring State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) show mixed results.

The Texas Education Agency uses the STAAR scores for elementary and junior high schoolers to issue them a performance label, indicating their achievement for their grade level in subject areas like reading, mathematics, writing, science and social studies.

A score of “Masters, Meets, or Approaches Grade Level” indicates a passing score for students able to perform appropriately according to grade level. A score of “Did Not Meet,” indicates a failure to achieve the necessary standard for the student’s grade.

High school scores were the subject of an Aug. 9 Herald article, http://bit.ly/HSStaar. The high school scores are included in the attached chart.

ACROSS THE STATE

According to the TEA, comparative statewide results from spring 2018 and spring 2017 showed an increase in the passing rate for some subject areas for third- through eighth-graders.

In mathematics, the passing rate increased from last year in four of the six grade levels tested, whereas only three of the six grade levels saw a higher passing rate in reading.

In science, there was a marginal decrease in the percentage of fifth-grade students who passed, from 41 percent in 2017 to 40 percent in 2018, whereas there was a larger increase in the number of eighth-graders with passing scores from 46 percent last spring to 50 percent this spring.

Eighth grade scores for social studies also showed a higher passing rate this year compared to last.

“(The tests) are designed to provide clear, accurate information for parents in terms of how their child is performing, specifically in terms of meeting grade level,” the TEA said in June 14 press release.

As STAAR results indicate, general school district performance for the area is mixed, according to Niche.com, a coalition of data scientists and engineers researching U.S. colleges, schools and more.

Niche has released its 2019 Best School Districts in Texas, a list based upon “rigorous analysis of key statistics and millions of reviews from students and parents using data from the U.S. Department of Education.” Ranking factors include state test scores, college readiness, graduation rates, SAT/ACT scores, teacher quality, public school district ratings and more.

The highest ranked area school district is Belton ISD, which is ranked 82nd out of 995 included districts. Comparatively, Copperas Cove ISD sits at 434th, and Killeen ISD sits at 703rd.

Killeen

The Killeen Independent School District, by far the largest in the region, tested a total of 18,569 students in grades three through eight in spring of 2018, increasing from 18,289 students from 2017.

The district showed a marginal improvement this year with a slightly higher rate of passing students across the board.

“We continue to make progress in some areas,” said Terry Abbott, KISD chief communications officer. “In some areas, we still have work to do.”

There was a general increase in the pass rate of students on reading exams from 2017 to 2018 with the exception of sixth- and seventh-graders.

The passing rate for fourth graders improved in reading and mathematics this year, but was higher for writing last year. This seems to be a trend across all the districts with the exception of Salado.

Fifth-graders performed better in all subject areas, with a higher pass rate on reading, mathematics and science this year.

These passing rates of fifth-graders in 2018 compared to 2017 represent some of the largest gains for Killeen students.

This year, 76 percent of fifth-graders passed the reading exam, compared with 70 percent passed last year. In mathematics, 82 percent passed in 2017, but 86 percent passed in 2018, and in science the pass rate increased from 66 percent last year to 70 percent this year.

Sixth- and seventh-graders had lower passing rates in all subjects from 2017 to 2018, except for the seventh-grade writing score which remained the same at a 62 percent pass rate.

Eighth-graders had an increased pass rate in all disciplines except social studies this year.

Overall, KISD passing rates rank in the middle of the pack when compared with other area districts, including Copperas Cove, Lampasas, Gatesville and Salado.

The district regularly scores higher than Florence ISD.

“We have a lot of great educators, and we are optimistic about further progress,” Abbott said.

Copperas Cove

STAAR results for 3,490 third- through eighth-grade students in Copperas Cove ISD showed a generally higher percentage of passing rates in most subject areas from spring 2017 to 2018.

Third- and fifth-graders did better in all subject areas this spring versus last. Fourth-graders did worse this year, with pass rates in reading dropping from 70 percent to 65 percent, and writing decreasing from 65 percent and 49 percent.

The percentage of passing sixth-grade students increased in mathematics, but decreased in reading from 2017 to 2018.

Seventh-grade passing rates were marginally less this year as well, decreasing by 1 percent in reading, and by 5 percent in writing. Scores for seventh-grade mathematics jumped to 74 percent passing, up from 68 percent last year.

Reading, mathematics and social studies scores for eighth-graders reflected higher rates of passing performance in all three subject areas, but the rate of passing science scores decreased in 2018.

“Our staff has done a great job making sure our kids had a great opportunity and we’re very proud of our staff and kids for their diligence,” said CCISD Superintendent Joe Burns. “It shows that hard work pays off.”

Belton

Belton ISD tested 4,955 third- through eighth-graders in spring 2018.

Scores reflected higher percentages of passing students in reading and mathematics across most grade levels based on this year’s results compared to 2017.

Ninety percent of fifth-graders earned a passing score in mathematics, and 78 percent of fourth-graders passed the Reading exam.

“I’m proud of the achievement of our students and the quality instruction provided by our teachers,” Superintendent Susan Kincannon said. “A high percentage of Belton ISD students achieved at the highest level of performance – ‘Masters,’ which is evidence of the strength of our instructional program.”

More Belton eighth-graders passed science and social studies exams in 2017, meaning those areas reflect decreased performance since last year.

“As a district, we continue to review the STAAR results, and use them to develop and refine instructional and professional development plans,” Kincannon said.

Florence

Approximately 456 students in third- through eighth-grades were tested in spring 2018 within Florence Independent School District and the rate of passing scores was generally higher than that of 2017.

“We are pleased with how our students performed, particularly in regard to the growth we are seeing,” Superintendent Paul Michalewicz said. “We had two grade levels and courses in which we had 20- and a 17-point increase over last year’s scores respectively.”

The percentage of fifth-grade students with passing reading exam scores increased from 54 percent in 2017 to 75 percent in 2018.

A larger percentage of fifth-graders also passed the mathematics exam this year, with an increase to an 80 percent pass rate, up from a 64 percent pass rate last year.

“What we are doing in our schools to improve academic performance, we saw huge gains across a lot of areas,” Michalewicz said.

Gatesville

STAAR test results for 1,236 students within Gatesville ISD showed mixed results in passing rates for third- through eighth-grade students across all disciplines. The passing rate of third-graders in both reading and mathematics decreased from 2017 to 2018, as did the passing rates for fourth-grade students in these subjects and in writing.

Scores rose for fifth-graders in all subjects except science, as well as for seventh-graders across the board.

“We are proud of improvements,” Assistant Superintendent Barrett Pollard said. “We have identified area where we need to make improvements.”

Lampasas

Lampasas Independent School District spring 2018 scores for 1,482 third through eighth-graders showed variation in passing performance from subject to subject as compared with last year.

“Third grade had a pretty good improvement overall, especially in reading,” Superintendent Chane Rascoe said. “We have really focused on that this year.

This spring, 79 percent of third-graders passed the reading exam, up from 74 percent in 2017.

“Fourth-grade writing was lower than we had hoped,” Rascoe said. “We were surprised by that.”

Passing score percentages decreased for fourth-graders in all subjects from 2017 to 2018, but increased for fifth-graders across all disciplines.

Rascoe said scores of other grade levels were generally what the district expected them to be.

“We have both good and bad,” Rascoe said. “We are going to be working on the areas that we need to improve.

Salado

Scores for the 834 Salado primary school students from the spring 2018 STAAR tests reflected increases in most subject areas for third- through eighth-graders.

Scores for third- and fourth-graders increased in all subjects, but decreased for sixth-graders in all disciplines from 2017 to 2018.

“Overall, our students did very well,” Superintendent Michael Novotny said. “There is always a few grade levels or subject areas that you want to improve on.”

More about STAAR

STAAR tests were originally implemented in spring of 2012 and are annual exams designed to gauge students based on the academic standards of their grade level.

“(The tests) are designed to provide clear, accurate information for parents in terms of how their child is performing, specifically in terms of meeting grade level,” TEA said in June 14 press release.

The TEA encourages parents to visit www.texasassessment.com and “Log In, Learn More” to see specific information regarding their child using a student access code provided by their local school districts.

A historical view of STAAR score for the entire state, including the most recent results for third through eighth grade as well as the end of course high school level, is available at http://txreports.emetric.net/

kfarmer@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7557

Educational Reporter

Herald staff writer

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