Despite some improvement, El Paso area students continue to fall behind the statewide passing rates on the new state-mandated test and end-of-course exams, preliminary data show.
Most school districts in the county did not meet the average passing rate of 80 percent in all subjects tested in during the 2011-2012 school year, according to the state's recently released test scores of third- through eighth-graders who took the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR test.
The new data, released in January, show that all nine El Paso County districts are lagging significantly behind the state average in reading and writing in the End of Course exams. The new results include new test scores from summer retakes.
Scores for the STAAR, given to third- through eighth-grade students, indicate that locally, there is a large dip among the area's eighth-graders in social studies, with an average passing rate of only about 44 percent. Texas Education Agency officials said there were no cumulative scores available for the STAAR at the elementary and middle school levels to compare El Paso students to others across the state.
Locally, however, the largest gap among the districts stems from the Anthony Independent School District, which had an 11 percent passing rate in social studies.
District officials attribute the low scores to three factors: The increased rigor of the test, lack of aligning the curriculum to the state's newer
requirements, and the change to STAAR and end of course exams from the previously mandated Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, or TAKS test.
The second round of annual testing starts next month, and school administrators are looking to the preliminary data to identify areas that need special focus.
The STAAR end-of-course tests, also known as EOC, were first given to ninth graders during the 2011-12 school year. Preliminary results, released in June of 2012, showed that the students were below the state average. This prompted district administrators to formulate corrective action plans.
A waiver from the TEA allowed students and educators to become accustomed to the new mandates, which had stricter guidelines regarding the curriculum taught inside the classroom.
From extra tutoring, Saturday school, increased professional development and changes to the curriculum, area school districts are trying to improve student scores on the state mandated tests.
Oscar Troncoso, principal and associate superintendent of instruction for the Anthony district, said at the middle school level, social studies teachers received additional training and the district is also making changes to its curriculum to better meet the state's standards, he said.
Realigning a curriculum, or changing it, to meet the state standard is not the same as teaching to the test, Troncoso added.
"I think there's a big misconception with the phrase, 'teaching to the test,'" Troncoso said. "If the state has standards that we have to meet, we need to teach to that standard. As educators, we have to meet these standards and that's not teaching to the test. If the alignment with what is required is not there, then the teacher has to realign themselves."
Clint officials said they began a plan of corrective action in September that included a campus wide survey that showed where improvements were needed.
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