PAISD awaits final rating on TAKS scores
While nothing is carved in stone yet, calculations so far indicate that H.G. Olsen Elementary School could jump from recognized to exemplary status; Brundrett Middle School's rating could drop from exemplary to acceptable; and Port Aransas High School likely will stay at the rating of recognized, according to principals of those campuses.
Billy Wiggins, superintendent of the Port Aransas Independent School District, could not be reached for comment on what sort of rating the district might receive overall. PAISD was rated as recognized last year.
The TAKS is the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, state mandated testing that is done to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Depending on how students perform on TAKS tests, the TEA assigns public schools all over the state various accountability ratings, from academically unacceptable on up to acceptable, recognized and, at the top of the scale, exemplary. In determining a school's rating, the TEA also considers many other factors including graduation rates, performances by minorities and attendance.
The TAKS news at Olsen Elementary School was looking good, said Sylvia Buttler, principal at Olsen. She said 95.8 percent of students passed reading; 88.8 percent passed math; 100 percent passed writing; and 91.6 percent passed science.
Results are preliminary, but they can only get better, Buttler said. Fifthgrade students who failed the math portion of the TAKS have been given another try, as is routine. Results of those tests are not in yet. If the results are good, it could push the school into the exemplary category, Buttler said. The school was rated as recognized last year.
"We're thrilled," Buttler said, adding that the good scores are due to a number of teaching practices, including tutoring for students who need it the most.
Brundrett Middle School took a hard hit, with only 60.9 percent of grade students passing the science portion of the TAKS, said Bob Byrd, principal at BMS. That is one of the main factors that likely will pull the school's rating down to acceptable, Byrd said. This is the first year that the science portion of the TAKS is figured into schools' accountability ratings, he said.
Byrd said he believes students overall knew the science material well enough to score much better but "had an off day" when they were taking the test. Exactly why they had an off day is hard to say, but nervousness likely played a role, he said.
"I know we did (more) with tutorials and benchmarking and all of that as we have in the past, and we had 91 percent passing in science last year," Byrd said.
While students are allowed second and third tries if they fail at first on some TAKS tests, that isn't allowed on eighth-grade science tests, Byrd said.
Another tough pill to swallow: Twenty-eight percent of BMS's 41 eighth-grade students have failed the math portion of TAKS, Byrd said.
A law that took effect this year prevents, with certain exceptions, eighth graders from advancing to ninth grade if they don't pass both the math and reading portions of the test. However, students get two more chances to take the tests if they fail the first time. The students who failed the first test have taken the test a second time. Results from those tests haven't come in yet. A third test can be taken in July.
Students who fail on all three attempts on the TAKS math test still can move on to ninth grade if a grade placement committee unanimously votes to allow the student to advance, Byrd said.
If such a committee needs to be formed, it will include school administrators and the parents of the students, and they would vote in August, Byrd said. The committee, he said, would look at the student as an individual and consider a variety of factors, including how likely the student is to catch up if allowed to continue to ninth grade.
If the math part of the TAKS was the only thing that the student failed, and if he or she came close to passing, the student would stand a good chance at being promoted, Byrd said.
Students allowed to move on to the ninth grade by a vote of the committee would have to go through accelerated instruction in their freshman year to catch up, Byrd said.
Texas appears to have some of the toughest math standards in the nation for its school students, Byrd said.
"It's a pretty tough test and a big challenge," Byrd said. "I have parents tell me all the time, 'Hey, I can't help them with that math.' "
But Byrd said he didn't want to make excuses for his school's performance.
"We didn't do as well as we should have," he said. "We will, as we always do, re-examine our practices and the intensity of our practices, and do everything within our power to fix this problem."
There was some good news at BMS in TAKS testing.
In sixth-grade testing, 93 percent of students passed reading, and 90.6 percent passed math.
In the seventh grade, 93.7 percent passed reading, while 89.6 percent passed math, and 89.3 percent passed writing.
One hundred percent of eighth graders passed reading, and every single one of them also passed social studies.
Of note: This is the first year that federal mandates require that students classified as being in "special education" take the same TAKS test as all other students, with few exceptions. "It will likely lead to a lowering of test scores statewide," Byrd said.
At PAHS, 91.5 percent of students passed reading; 96 percent passed English-language-arts; 83 percent passed math; 100 percent passed social studies; and 84 percent passed science, according to Travis Longanecker, the school's principal.
Longanecker said he was proud of students, teachers and parents for efforts made across the board, and he pointed out that some of the students who passed the math portion of TAKS this year had not passed the test in four previous years.
Intense in-school tutoring of about 50 students helped math scores a lot, Longanecker said, adding that he expects PAHS math and science scores to be significantly higher than the average in Texas, once the state's overall statistics are compiled.
On the down side: Two PAHS seniors won't walk across the stage with the rest of their class on graduation night because they didn't pass the science portion of the TAKS test, Longanecker said. The two students have taken the test three times but will have four more chances, with the first opportunity taking place this summer. If they pass, Longanecker said he will arrange for a special graduation ceremony to be held for them, probably at a school board meeting, if the students desire it.
The science portion of the TAKS got more difficult to pass this year because students are required to get a higher percentage of answers right in order to pass. That percentage will increase again next year, Longanecker said.