SISD sees first performance results in the age of COVID-19

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Sherman Independent School district headed back to campus Monday with in-person classes and distance learning options.

While the 2019-2020 school year may have been very topsy turvy for students, teachers and others within the education field, the 2020 Texas Academic Performance Report shows that the Sherman Independent School District is still meeting the needs of its students.

The district received a passing grade in its latest report card — the first since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — late last month with updated statistics on the district's performance over the past year.

This year's report is unusual as it does not include data and results from the 2020 STAAR test, as it was administered due to the pandemic. All districts throughout the state were labeled as "Not rated: Declared State of Disaster." Likewise, some performance indicators have not been update with new data due to the cancellation of the test.

"As you look at that, that tells us that we creating and building bearcats to do all the things that we put in our mission statement," said Susan Whitenack, SISD assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

While STAAR data was not available, district officials looked at other sources for progress over the past year. One of these indicators is the Measure of Academic Performance testing, which are given to students in third through 10th grade. The MAP ratings place students in categories based on their performance on reading  and math tests that are given three times during the year.

Sherman Independent School district headed back to campus Monday with in-person classes and distance learning options.

The latest results compare student progress from the beginning of the year to mid-year.

The latest results found that Fairview, Sory, Wakefield, Neblett and Washington Elementary schools saw an increase in the students who performed at or above grade level for third grade reading. All district schools saw similar increases for third grade math.

For the fourth grade,  Fairview, Sory, Wakefield and Washington saw increases for reading and math while Neblett saw an increase in students at or above grade level in reading.

Whitenack said some of the data has been delayed due to COVID-19 and she hopes to have more detailed information once this data is compiled.

Other data that was available focused on Sherman's youngest students from kindergarten to second grade. The report found that at beginning of the year 66 percent of kindergarten students were well below grade level for early literacy. By mid-year this had improved to 58 percent.

Likewise, first grade saw modest improvements from 57 percent to 54 percent. The report also found that the number of kindergarteners performing at grade level increased by 8 percent by mid year.

Sherman Independent School District staff were surprised Friday with a $1,000 bonus check in recognition of efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another data point that the district is using to gauge performance is student performance on college preparedness tests, including the PSAT, SAT and ACT. 

This year's SAT results saw a slight dip in the average score achieved by Sherman students. On average, Sherman students scored a 478 and 476 on English, Reading and Writing, and Math portions, respectively. This is down compared to the results of 2015 and 2016, when Sherman students scored an average of 529 and 535 on the same tests.

In part, Whitenack attributed this to changes in the number of students who are taking the test. The number of students who took the SAT more than doubled in the intervening years, with 269 taking the test in 2019 and 2020. 

Less students took the test this past year than the year prior, when 341 students took the college readiness test.

Whitenack said the scores have shifted as more students take the test. This includes an increase in the students that are categorized as economically disadvantaged, she said. Almost half of Sherman's test takers were economically disadvantaged in the latest numbers, Whitenack said.

District officials attributed this increase in the test takes to efforts by the district to increase and push for college readiness in all students near the end of their educational careers. 

"We pushed that conversation to what are you going to do after high school. High school is not an end, it is just a beginning," Whitenack said.

Sherman ISD presented data on its student performance over the past year. These results did not include data from the STAAR test, which was not administered in 2020.