The State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness results for the Sherman Independent School District gives the district some things to brag about and some areas to focus on for continued growth.
One particular bright spot was the remediation of one of the district’s elementary schools, Wakefield Elementary, which did not meet standard last year but did reach it this year.
Sherman ISD Superintendent David Hicks said he is proud of all of the hard work teachers and students put in on a daily basis.
“Academic achievement is our main goal and we are dedicated to continually improving,” he said in a written statement. “Basically all of our schools in Sherman preliminarily have met standard,” added
Sherman ISD Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Susan Whiteneck said “basically, all” of the district’s schools preliminarily have met standard. She added that all of the scores being released this week are preliminary until the state finalizes the data later this summer.
The annual test assesses students in a range of subjects including reading, writing, social studies, math and science, as well as end of the course evaluations in another five subjects.
“Overall, we put a significant focus on reading and writing in our elementary schools because we needed to make sure (those students) had some good basic literacy skills,” Whiteneck said. “And that has shown up in the score.”
She pointed out that the third grade reading pass rate stayed steady at 72 percent this year but third grade reading in Spanish went up by two points from 92 to 94 percent. Fourth grade reading went up from 68 percent passing in 2017 to 73 percent in 2018 and fourth grade reading Spanish went up from 69 percent to 79 percent.
“Not only did we go up in the minimal standard, but we went up in the met standard by four points,” Whiteneck said . “Last year our met standard was 39 and this year it is 43 percent.”
In the fifth grade, reading fell by two points. However that group didn’t get all bad news with the test results. Whiteneck said that group of students scored better on reading this year than it did last year even if the grade level score didn’t improve. In the fourth grade, that group met the minimal standard at 68 percent. But as fifth graders, they met that same standard at 78 percent.
“That shows just growth over time and it is comparing apples to apples,” Whiteneck said.
The losses continued with the sixth grade slipping from a 71 percent passing rate in 2017 to one of just 68 percent in 2018. However, the eighth graders rebounded with a three point increase in the passing rate from 76 percent to 79 percent.
Writing scores were also a highlight for the district, with fourth graders going from a 60 percent passing rate in 2017 to one of 63 percent in 2018. The Spanish section for that test fell a bit from 77 percent passing rate in 2017 to only 73 in 2018, but the seventh graders increased their pass rate by six percentage points going from a 59 percent passing rate in 2017 to one of 65 percent in 2018.
“The tests showed significant growth in our elementary schools in writing and reading, which has been a real focus for our program this year,” Whiteneck said.
She said they focused as a district on making sure those elementary students were grounded in the fundamentals of reading and writing because they are the building blocks they will need to succeed at all of the work they have coming in future years.
Math scores were a mixed bag for the district with some gains and some losses, particularly in the end of year tests. Third grade math went from a passing rate of 73 percent in 2017 to one of only 69 percent in 2018. The slide was even bigger in the Spanish section of that grade, with Math losing 13 points from 88 percent to 75 percent of the students taking the test meeting the minimum requirement. In the fourth grade, however things turned around in Math scores with that group gaining four points from a 71 percent passing rate to a 74 percent rate in 2018. The fifth graders held their own at 88 percent passing rate for both years and the sixth graders improved by a point from a passing rate of 78 in 2017 to one of 79 in 2018. The increase just got better in the seventh grade with those kids climbing from a passing rate of 66 percent in 2017 to 70 percent in 2018.
Whiteneck said the numbers for the Algebra I class at Piner Middle School are also encouraging, even though they are not yet counted on the STAAR results.
“Those students do very well,” Whiteneck said. “We have a 98 percent passing rate (in that class’ end of the year test). Those are usually our high achieving students. That is significant. That means our advance kids are doing very well.”
Other struggles included a two point drop in the passing rate for Sherman ISD fifth graders in Science (77 to 75) and a 1 point drop for eighth graders in the subject from 66 percent passing in 2017 to 65 in 2018. History for eighth graders was also a struggle with the district losing four points from last year’s passing rate of 49 percent to end up with a 45 percent passing rate for 2018.
End of the year courses on the secondary level were also a struggle for the district.
This year’s test results showed a six percent drop in the passing for the Biology end of year test from 82 percent last year to 76 percent this year and a two percent drop in the English I test from 54 percent last year to 52 percent.
Whiteneck said English I is always a challenge across the state.
“If you look at the state average, that number is significantly lower than English II,” she said. “Part of that is the type of test, we move the students from (one kind of) writing in the seventh grade to a different type of writing in the ninth grade. This was also the first year for that 7th grade test so everyone is still working out how to handle it.”
However, English II and U.S. History end of the year exams were a bright spot for the district with scores improving this year by one point each.
“If you look at our high school (end of course) scores, they are not as high as we would like them to be for sure,” Whiteneck said. “So that is a focus for the 2018-2019 school year. And one of the pieces that we have done is that I have been able to hire a director of secondary education to help work with those schools directly.”
She said it is important to remember that the STAAR tests are one-day events and it is hard to look back and know whether that was a good or a bad day for a child.
“Overall, our focus in Sherman is always about making sure our kids have an amazing experience in school,” Whiteneck said. “We are often compared to districts around us and I think each school district is special and unique. We want to make sure that not only do our kids have academic growth because that is our main mission, but we also want to make sure that they excel in other ways. We want to make sure that the whole child is focused on.”