If there's anything that can fix public education, it's yet another standardized test with a bizarre acronym.
Forget TAAS and TAKS -- get used to hearing about STAAR. (The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, of course.)
The Houston school district says STAAR is "much more rigorous" than TAAS, and the initial results, which are trickling out, seem to back that up.
Of the 12,000 HISD freshmen who took the test this year, 53 percent failed the writing portion, according to preliminary results that may later be adjusted. Forty-one percent failed the reading portion. Results were better in algebra, biology and world geography, where failure rates ranged from 27 percent to 16 percent.
The results mean a whole lot more kids will be in summer school, which starts Monday.
The school board has approved hiring 228 more summer teachers at $50 an hour, with bonuses for student improvement that could get them $10,000.
Other HISD STAAR 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. It is important to note that 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
Statewide, the Texas Education Agency has also released some preliminary results. Passing rates ranged from 87 percent on the biology test to 55 percent on the writing test.
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"While we know there is always an adjustment period for students and teachers in a new testing program, results from the first STAAR assessments are encouraging overall, showing that students generally performed as expected or better and that educators focused intensely on the state curriculum. These results give us the opportunity to focus on subject areas that need improvement, and we will continue to work with school districts, teachers and parents to ensure we continue to improve education for Texas students," Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott said.
Biology Eighty-seven percent of all students who took the biology end-of-course test passed it, and nine percent of those students reached Level III: Advanced Academic Performance, which means they are well prepared for the next course. If the final passing standards had been in place this year, only 41 percent of all students would have passed biology.
Algebra I Eighty-three percent of students passed the Algebra I test by reaching Level II: Satisfactory Academic Performance, while 17 percent reached Level III: Advanced Academic Performance. If the passing standards had been fully phased in, however, only 39 percent of all students would have passed the Algebra I test.
World Geography Eighty-one percent of all students passed the world geography test, and 13 percent achieved Level III: Advanced Academic Performance. If the final passing standards had been in place this year, only 40 percent of all students would have passed the world geography test.
English I English I content is assessed using two different tests, one focusing on reading skills and the other on writing skills.
Sixty-eight percent of students passed the English I reading test, with eight percent achieving Level III performance. However, only 55 percent passed the English I writing assessment, with three percent achieving Level III on the writing test. If there had been no phase-in of standards, only 46 percent of students would have passed reading, and 34 percent would have passed writing.