HISD to give students extra help to pass STAAR tests

August 8, 2012 10:08:47 AM PDT
It could be a short summer for thousands of students who are learning that they did not pass the new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, exams.

It's been busier than you might think here at Sharpstown High School where school is out, but kids are coming in to sign up for summer school. And there may be more in summer school than usual because thousands of HISD ninth graders will be trying to pass their STAAR exams.

At Sharpstown High, class is out for the summer but kids are here to sign up for summer school, even though they didn't fail any classes.

"I passed all my classes, but I wanted to try to retake the STAAR test," said student Ruby Vamez.

She actually passed all her STAAR exams, but just barely on her reading test.

"It was hard," Vamez said.

She did better than thousands of HISD kids in her class -- 41 percent failed the STAAR reading test, 53 percent failed the writing test and 21 percent failed the algebra test.

But everyone starting with the class of 2015 has to pass the STAAR exams in five subjects to graduate.

So on Thursday morning the HISD school board unanimously approved a plan to offer more intensive summer school programs to the 7,000 ninth graders who failed at least one STAAR test.

"We're hiring 228 additional teachers beyond what we normally have during summer school specifically to come in and get these kids ready to take these tough exams," said HISD spokesperson Jason Spencer.

Summer school is not mandatory, although retesting is. But even kids who did pass can take the summer school courses to try and get better scores because better scores are going to matter when it comes time to graduate, says Sharpstown's dean of instruction.

"We want to see the scores go up, we want to see more kids scoring at much higher levels," said Rana Boone.

In the meantime, Vamez is all too aware that getting a better score might mean something for her later.

"I guess this year I didn't try hard, as hard as I had to," she said.

Summer school starts next Monday and the STAAR retest is scheduled for early July. One Sharpstown administrator told us that gives teachers 18 days to get kids on track.

The board did approve paying the teachers $50 an hour, plus bonuses based on their kids passing.

More info on STAAR exams

This spring, more than 12,000 HISD high school freshmen were the first to attempt the end-of-course exams required under STAAR. Students who did not pass the STAAR end-of-course exams or the TAKS exit-level exam get their next opportunity July 9-12. Summer school is not mandatory for students who have not passed the STAAR exams, but attendance is highly encouraged, because passing averages are required for graduation. Texas students now must pass a total of 15 STAAR end-of-course exams by the time they complete high school to receive a diploma.

HISD is hiring as many as 228 teachers for summer school. They'll be approaching those teachers who declined to teach it this year. They are offering $50 an hour, plus bonuses based on how many kids pass -- up to $10,000. The money to pay for the program is coming from unspent funds in the district's pool of money set aside for teacher performance pay.

Because the STAAR exams are in their first year of use, the Texas Education Agency is not using results from the 2011-2012 administration for accountability purposes. This means that school ratings will not be based on this year's scores and results are not being used to determine whether students are promoted to the next grade level. However, HISD will be using them for graduation eligibility purposes.

Scores on the STAAR End of Course exams taken by ninth-graders, however, will be used to determine their eventual eligibility for graduation. The majority of HISD freshmen took end-of-course exams this spring in five subjects: English I reading, English I writing, Algebra I, biology, and world geography. HISD is still awaiting full results for all students from the state, and the preliminary results listed below are still subject to change. The preliminary results are as follows:

    Reading: 59 percent passing
    Writing: 47 percent passing
    Algebra I: 79 percent passing
    Biology: 84 percent passing
    World Geography: 73 percent passing

The number of HISD students who must retake each exam ranges from 6,100 students on the writing exam to 2,100 students in biology.

Other Preliminary STAAR Exam Results

Students in grades 3 through 8 took STAAR exams for the first time this spring as well. The Texas Education Agency has not yet determined the percentage of questions that each student must correctly answer in order to pass those exams. Therefore, each exam's results are being reported in terms of the average percent of questions answered correctly by students at each grade level and in each subject. The average number of questions answered correctly on each exam is as follows. These percentages DO NOT represent passing rates:

    Grade 3 Reading: 63 percent; Math: 63 percent
    Grade 3 (Spanish-language test takers) Reading: 60 percent; Math: 63 percent
    Grade 4 Reading: 64 percent; Math: 59 percent
    Grade 4 (Spanish-language test takers) Reading: 61 percent; Math: 65 percent; Writing: 61 percent
    Grade 5 Reading: 65 percent; Math: 66 percent; Science: 73 percent
    Grade 5 (Spanish-language test takers) Reading: 48 percent; Math 40 percent; Science: 50 percent
    Grade 6 Reading: 65 percent; Math: 58 percent
    Grade 7 Reading: 64 percent; Math: 46 percent; Writing: 60 percent;
    Grade 8 Reading: 65 percent; Math: 52 percent; Science: 61 percent; Social Studies: 52 percent


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