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STAAR Test issues change LISD summer school plans

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By LPR Staff

Editor/POST-REGISTER

 

A decision last week by Education Commissioner Mike Morath has caused confusion, but no real difficulties, for the Lockhart Independent School District.

Summer school for fifth and eighth graders, as well as credit recovery courses at the high school level, were already well under way by the time M

orath issued a statement declaring that students’ grade-level advancement would not be tied to their results on the April issuance of the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests.

The decision came after it was discovered that delays in processing by Educational Testing Service, the New Jersey-based contractor charged with administering the tests, caused several districts throughout the State to be unsure of their final testing results. The delays prevented many districts from being able to notify parents whether their fifth or eighth graders should enroll in summer school preparation for the STAAR retest, based on their failure to pass the exam.

Under the current testing standards, only the grade placement of children in fifth and eighth grades are tied to the STAAR results. However, in many cases those results are not yet available, putting an undue burden on school districts statewide to determine whether or not their students would advance to the next grade level.

“We are going to use locally-generated assessments to see if our students are prepared after summer school,” said LISD Superintendent Susan Bohn on Tuesday. “If the students failed the second administration of the STAAR test last year, it won’t be ‘make-or-break’ as to whether they advance or not but will be a consideration. However, those scores will be counted in our campus and district accountability ratings, so parents should be aware of that.”

Bohn said the Texas Education Agency, has directed districts not to administer the summer retest for fifth and eighth graders, which is normally administered to students in late June, at the end of the fifth and eighth grade summer school programs.

“We did receive the tests, but that was before the Commissioner made his decision, so we are supposed to send them back, and the students won’t re-test,” she said.

Instead, she said, fifth and eighth grade students will be assessed in the coming weeks by “grade placement committees,” who will evaluate the students who failed the April issuance of the STAAR test on their success in other areas, as well as the summer school success for those who chose to attend, to determine whether those children will advance to the next grade level.

“Ultimately, our parents want our kids to succeed,” she said. “What we saw, as a general trend, is that most of the students [who ran a risk of being held back] were enrolled in summer school.”

After summer school draws to a close, those students will be evaluated by the grade placement committees, with discussions being held with the parents; at that time, it will be determined whether the students will advance or not.

The same general process is in place for students at grade levels in which passing the STAAR is not a factor in advancement. The parents of the children who will not be advancing to the next grade level should have already been notified by the District or their child’s campus, Bohn said.

Bohn wanted to make clear to parents of high school students in summer school that the recent guidance from the commissioner regarding the fifth and eighth grade assessments had no impact on students End Of Course (EOC) exams, which measure high school performance and college readiness for Texas students.

Students are required to pass state-mandated EOC exams as part of high school graduation requirements. Those students who were unable to pass their EOC exams during the school year are also given the opportunity, through summer school, to pass the exams. While there are some areas of the state who noticed irregularities in scoring of written EOC exams, Bohn said it is still unknown if any LISD student scores were impacted.

“We did send some tests back to be rescored, and we just a few results back,” she said. “We don’t think have a strong feeling that any of our kids will be impacted, but we wanted to send certain tests in to be rescored because if our kids passed the test, and for whatever reason their scores came back as failing, we want to make sure that’s corrected so the kids don’t have to take the tests again.”

However, a number of Lockhart High School students did embrace the opportunity to attend summer school to retake their EOC exams, in hopes of recovering those credits.

“Those EOCs and course credits are so important, because graduation is on the line,” Bohn said. “If the kids don’t pass the EOC and don’t get those credits, they get farther and farther behind and that makes it harder to get the credits they need to graduate.”

Altogether, she said, LISD has focused their summer school programs on ensuring that the children who need the extra help are getting it.

“Summer school allows us for a time for concentrated effort that we don’t normally have during the school year to focus on getting those kids back on track,” she said.

She said, too, that LISD will introduce new district-wide curriculum programming at the elementary all levels in the coming school year that will help to align student success throughout the District.

“We had 45 teachers and principals attend a conference in San Antonio [focusing on the use of new curriculum-driven procedures],” she said. “They are going to be bringing back those skills and resources to work with the District as leaders in this initiative.”

Those teams, she said, will meet with colleagues within the District prior to the start of the school year to set standards for the topics and focal points that will be covered during each nine-week period.

“We aren’t going to interfere with the art of teaching, and that’s not what introducing this curriculum system is meant to do,” she said. “But what we are working toward is ensuring that teachers at each grade level are covering the same standards, and that at the end of each nine weeks, the students have been exposed to the same concepts.”

Summer school will continue through the end of next week, with EOC exams scheduled for credit recovery July 11-15. For additional information, visit the Lockhart ISD website at lockhartisd.org, or contact LISD Central Office during summer business hours, 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., Monday – Wednesday, and 7:30 a.m.- 5 p.m. on Thursdays, at (512) 398-0000.

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