2017-07-14 / Front Page

STAAR scores show improvement, assistant superintendent says

BY DEREK MOY
DISPATCH RECORD

The Lampasas Independent School District Board of Trustees reviewed State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness scores with Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kevin Bott on Monday evening. Improvement was noted in many areas, along with some results that need further review.

In a color-coded printout Bott distributed, board members could see that LISD students are performing at least as well as the state average in areas such as third-grade reading and math, sixth-grade reading, seventh-grade writing and eighth-grade science.

High school results were not part of the discussion, as only elementary and middle school STAAR results were compiled.

Bott told trustees that scores overall in the past four years have been trending upward with few exceptions.

“Look at that right column that says Level III [percentage of students who mastered the expectations]; it has dramatically improved,” he said. “It’s very impressive. I’m very proud of our teaching staff and our students. They worked very hard.

“If I can get you to stretch your mind a little bit further and look at the 2016 Level II column [“satisfactory” performance], you can see the growth that we showed from last year in a lot of areas,” Bott said. “That growth and improvement has a huge, huge part in our distinctions.

“As tempting as it is to just look at that state average, there’s so much that can be said of growth and improvement at each individual campus when you compare them to their campus group,” the assistant superintendent said.

All three LISD elementary schools showed fourth-grade writing results were below the state average, and trustees asked if more focus needs to be on writing rather than reading.

“It used to be two essays; now it’s just one,” Bott said of the state writing assessment. “There’s also 24 revising and editing questions that come with that. I’ll try to give y’all the 24 revising and editing questions, and you’ll be a little stumped.”

The district average in fourth-grade writing showed 59 percent “approaching mastery,” while the state average was 63 percent.

Board members also expressed concern about Taylor Creek Elementary School’s below-average scores across nearly all grade levels. Trustee Randy Morris asked Bott if a highly mobile student population were to blame for the low scores.

“There is some mobility – obviously more mobility than there is at Hanna Springs and Kline Whitis – but I think it’s sometimes a part of it,” Bott said. “There are a lot of external factors … I can’t give you just one answer.”

Taylor Creek’s fifth-grade science scores were the only area where students were above the state average for “approaches grade level.” Taylor Creek showed 84 percent “approaching,” versus the state’s 73 percent.

District math scores also were down at most grade levels compared to the state average. As a result, Bott was asked if LISD needs to prioritize math and ease up on reading.

“It is tricky, because a lot of the math is reading now,” the assistant superintendent responded. “So, we’re focusing as much as we can to make sure our kids can read. Our district reading initiative for kindergarten through third grade is huge.”

Bott also said there are plans to use instructional technology coordinators on every campus to help teachers with their lesson plans and to bolster student learning in other ways.

“The biggest thing we’ve done for this coming year is we’ve tweaked the job descriptions for our CITs just a little bit to provide more of an instructional support role…,” he said. “It’s difficult to just focus on instructional technology nowadays without focusing on curriculum and alignment and the instructional approach that teacher is taking.”

In other business Monday, Chief Financial Officer Shane Jones said the district would be receiving much less Title I Part A [to assist schools with high concentrations of students from low-income families] and Title II Part A funding [for teacher training and recruitment] from the federal government.

“We have seen a consistent decline in federal dollars,” Jones said. “This year was more significant than most.

“That Title II was, as a matter of fact, $148,000 or $145,000, and it’s down to $90,000 now …,” Jones said. “To be honest, that one goes right back to the Trump administration and [Secretary of Education Betsy] DeVos. They made some big cuts, specifically to some programs, and that was one of them.”

The school district will make up the shortfall from the general budget, not from cuts to staff.

“A lot of our funding was trickier this year,” Bott said. “We got about $120,000 less in federal funding, so we have a teacher and three paraprofessionals that are being funded from our general fund.”

In other matters, the board accepted the resignation of Jordan Folks and approved the hiring of 10 teachers on probationary contracts. Those teachers are Darby Baez- Alvarez, Sarah DeMasters and Brent Wasche, high school; Sandra Brandon and Eric White, middle school; Regina Herrmann, Taylor Creek; Joanna Hicks and Adriana Shed, Hanna Springs; and Ashley Sorvillo and Marley Wiggins, Kline Whitis Elementary.

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