Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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July 15, 2014

CISD trustees tackle low scores, new testing policy

Corsicana — The Corsicana Independent School District Board of Trustees reviewed the preliminary STAAR results at Monday’s board meeting in the new Lee Education Center and Administration Building.

The district didn’t show good results on the state’s standardized tests this past year, with elementary school students particularly showing poorly. Only 65 percent of third graders met the state’s minimum passing standard on the English and 66 percent of third graders passed the math on the STAAR test, according to Superintendent Diane Frost.

“Which is concerning,” she told the board. She added that the students weren’t just tested on fiction and non-fiction, but also on poetry and drama this year, which the students hadn’t been prepared for.

Other poor showings were in eighth grade social studies, where only 45 percent of Collins kids passed. At Corsicana High School, only 58 percent of freshmen passed the English I end of course test.

At the other end of the spectrum, fifth graders did well, overall passing Reading with 83 percent on the first try, and 89 percent on the second attempt. Math with 88 percent first time out, and 92 percent on the second taking. Among fifth graders, 69 percent passed the science test on the first attempt.

Other high scores were the End of Course passing rates on Biology, which was 87; and U.S. History, which was 89. Passing rates on the other End of Course tests were English II, 63; Algebra I, 76.

Seventh graders had passing rates in the 60s on all their tests, Sixth graders had passing rates in the 70s, and 71 percent of fourth graders passed the reading test, 65 percent passed the math, and 70 percent passed the writing portion.

Regarding the End of Course tests, Frost pointed out that the students did well in history and biology, but they need to look at English.

In order to address some of the problems, the district is already offering summer school to first and second graders most in need of a jump start, and they’re shuffling things around to lower class sizes.

“It’s expensive, but it’s one of the most effective things we can do,” she said.

Frost said the other two components of the state’s evaluation system will be available in August.

“We’re not pleased with our scores, but these scores are just part of what we do as a district,” she said, pointing out that it doesn’t include factors like fine arts and other classes.

“However, we’re not going to dodge our accountability and we plan on working very hard to bring our scores up,” Frost told the board.

On an unrelated note, the board chose not to vote to approve a new policy regarding grading and progress reports that would require teachers to retest students who fail on major grades.

Board members expressed concern that this would tend to make students less responsible, and would actually penalize students who took tests seriously the first time.

Carla Stanford, executive director of curriculum and instruction, said a committee had come up with the plan, and the goal was to make sure the students learned the material, even if it took them two tries.

A student who takes the test the first time and makes a 72 might end up scoring lower than a student who takes it a second time four days later and gets a 95, pointed out Ed Monk, board member. “We may be creating a conflict within our own regulation,” he said.

Stanford told the board that this policy would prevent students and teachers from giving up.

“We want to provide students with opportunities to learn, but also provide parameters for responsibility,” she said. “We’ve set forth expectations for teachers that retesting is not an option for CISD.”

The policy will need rewording but Stanford promised the board it would be back at the next meeting.

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