Tuesday, April 26, 2005

HISD: "Third of 5th-Graders Fail Harder-to-Pass Math Test"

It's amazing to hear all the praises that are sung about the accountability system at the Texas legislature, as well as in the press, when the state's own data belie this very reality. If one soley relied on the TEA's press releases for information on the condition of education in our state (see Hot Topics for TEA's version of events), one wouldn't immediately grasp this reality.

Sure, 89 percent of the 226,939 students tested passed all their tests, but this rate is in turn is "achieved" through BOTH racial/ethnic disparities AND differences between those who are economically disadvantaged versus their counterparts who are not.

Among 3rd graders, for example, 95% of Anglos met the standard in reading while 85 and 82% of Latinos and African Americans, respectively, did so (March 2005, Statewide Preliminary Report, TEA). Similarly, 95% of economically advantaged in comparison to 83% of their disadvantaged counterparts met this standard.

At the 11th grade level, matters are even more bleak, with only 64% of all students meeting the standard in language arts. That is, while 75% of Anglos met the L.A. standard, only 60% of Latinos and 60% of African Americans did so (December 2004, Statewide Preliminary Report, TEA). Similarly, 69% of economically advantaged in comparison to 60% of their disadvantaged counterparts met this standard.

So, the 3rd grade achievement levels are not only NOT replicated at later grade levels, but the racial/ethnic and socioeconomic gap persists across ALL levels despite 14-plus years of Texas-style accountability. Now, if only our legislators will stop being cheerleaders for the system and start paying attention to those of us who welcome a more constructive and less punishing approach to school reform. -Angela

April 26, 2005, 9:57AM

HISD chief Saavedra says the scores show progress
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

Houston's fifth-graders posted the lowest passing rate among the state's five urban school districts on the TAKS math test. Here's a list of the districts and the percentage who passed the exam.
• Austin: 76 percent
• Fort Worth: 73 percent
• San Antonio: 69 percent
• Dallas: 68 percent
• Houston: 67 percent
• State: 79 percent
Source: School districts

A third of Houston's fifth-graders failed the state's math exam, the school district announced Monday, meaning 4,500 students face the threat of summer school, and perhaps another year in elementary school, if they don't manage to pass by August.

This is the first year that fifth-graders are required to pass the math and reading portions of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills exam in order to move on to the sixth-grade.

Those who haven't passed both subjects after the third try in June can still be promoted if their parent, teacher and principal unanimously agree that promotion is in the child's best interest.

Even fewer Houston Independent School District fifth-graders — 62 percent — passed the reading exam on the first try, according to results released last month.

HISD's math passing rate — 67 percent — was the lowest among Texas' five urban school districts and 12 percentage points below the state average.

Still, HISD Superintendent Abe Saavedra said the scores show progress.

Students had to correctly answer 30 of 42 math questions this year to pass, compared with 28 of 42 last year, when 76 percent of HISD's fifth-graders passed.

If last year's weaker standards had been used again this year, 78 percent would have passed, he said.

"We're proud of the improvement in our test scores," Saavedra said.

"But we still have a long way to go to have every child in HISD learning at the highest level."

Students who haven't passed the TAKS test will get extra tutoring to prepare for their next shot at the exam in May, Saavedra said.

They'll have another opportunity in late June.

Saavedra said he expects scores to improve under his new teaching-focused management structure that goes into effect at the end of this school year.

On Monday, he named 18 of the 19 people who will serve as executive principals, each overseeing a high school and all the elementary and middle schools that feed into it.

A few will oversee two feeder patterns.

"These strong academic leaders will focus with laser-like intensity on improving academic performance in every school in HISD," Saavedra said, as the executives stood behind him at the school district headquarters.

Each executive principal will earn a base salary of $95,000 with a potential incentive bonus of up to $30,000. Who gets those bonuses will be determined at least in part on TAKS scores.

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