Students pass; state fails

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Denton school district officials announced last week that students in elementary and middle school exceeded state passing rates in each STAAR category last spring, and we’d like to congratulate students and teachers for an outstanding performance under difficult circumstances.

It must be really tough for our kids and their instructors to stay focused, considering all the pressure associated with state-mandated tests and some of the changes that have been thrown at them lately.

Last spring, the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, replaced the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS), which had served as the state’s standardized test since 2003. The exams test students in third through eighth grade. At the high school level, students take 15 course-specific assessments, known as end-of-course exams. Students who are now in the 10th grade began taking end-of-course exams last spring.

Students must pass each of those tests, even if they have to retake them, in order to graduate. Students now in the 11th grade will graduate under the TAKS exam, which will be completely phased out next school year.

Ninth-graders were administered STAAR end-of-course exams last spring, and then had two opportunities to retake exams in the summer and last semester.

According to district officials, students who took the end-of-course exams last spring exceeded the state passing rate on all but one exam. The percentage of Denton students passing the Algebra I test was 83 percent, the same as the statewide result.

Unfortunately, the state did not release information about passing standards and the percentage of students who passed until Jan. 29. Because the recently released STAAR results are now nearly a year old, Mike Mattingly, the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and staff development, said they came out too late to help the district prepare students for the STAAR assessments this spring.

School board President Mia Price said she was encouraged with students’ improvements in all areas on last spring’s STAAR assessments.

“I only hope future results will be more timely so that we can use them to assess and help our students,” she said.

We second that. We can appreciate the need for testing as a way to maintain academic standards and understand that periodic system upgrades may be necessary, but much of the value is lost if districts can’t get the results in time to put them to good use.

Maybe state education officials should learn a thing or two from our local schools and make sure their homework is done on time.

We also think it’s time for the Texas Legislature to get on board and support our students and teachers to the fullest extent. Since the 82nd Legislature, Denton schools have seen a decrease in state funding totaling about $17 million, district officials told us. The funding cuts were a result of the $5.4 billion slashed to public education and education grant programs by the state in 2011.

In spite of the budget cuts, our students and teachers have continued to do all that’s asked of them and more.

Wouldn’t it be great if state education officials and state legislators had the same work ethic?

 


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