The Denison Independent School District Board of Trustees received an update on the district’s State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness results for the past school year. The results saw Denison students exceed state passing averages in 20 of 22 assessments, and meet the state average in another category.

“It’s interesting to see all the celebrations at last month’s board meeting and this month’s board meeting,” Regina Prigge, DISD director of assessments and special programs, said. “We know that a lot of hard work is behind the celebrations and the awards the students are receiving. A lot of work is also behind those STAAR scores as well.”

The annual assessments test students in a variety of subjects including reading, writing, social studies, math and science along with end of course evaluations in another five subjects and levels. Denison students passed at a higher rate in all subjects with the exception of third-grade math, which was at state average, and sixth-grade reading. The pass rate for sixth-grade reading only fell one point below the state average.

Denison students passed at the highest rate in end-of-course biology, with a 96 percent pass rate, while eighth-grade social studies saw a passing rate 12 percentage points above the state average.

“We showed a lot of growth this year, and we are pleased with that,” DISD Superintendent Henry Scott said.

When comparing 2018 to the previous school year, Denison increased its pass rate in 15 assessments and remained constant in another three tests. The greatest gain for Denison came in English II, which rose from 57 percent passing to 68 percent. Conversely, third grade math saw an 8 percent decrease in Denison’s pass rate compared to the previous year.

Of the end-of-course exams, Prigge said about 25 percent of Denison students in Algebra I, Biology and English I scored at the masters level, while 49 percent of students in U.S. History reached masters level scores.

“Our mission remains the same as we celebrate our successes and then roll our sleeves up for the future tasks ahead,” Prigge said.

Board member Brian Aspell noted that English I and II pass rates for Denison seemed lower than some of the other courses and asked whether the subjective nature of the composition portions of the assessments might account for that.

“It is just interesting to look at areas that aren’t subjective versus ones that are and how the scores differ, even across the state,” he said.

Scott also noted that subjective tests, including the English courses, would be used to evaluate how effective the schools and teachers are at doing their job.

“Our public teachers focus on two things, and two things alone, and not the STAAR test, but on the relationships with students that they build every day and the lessons they design and assign in their classroom,” DISD Director on Instruction Shonda Cannon said. “If those two things are taken care of, then the STAAR test results will take care of themselves.”

Aspell also noted that the teachers and educators have worked to reduce the stress that comes with the tests, and applauded them for their efforts.

“Across the board at the district, hats off to you because our kids are learning — they are learning a lot,” he said.