Mansfield schools get passing grades on STAAR

Posted Monday, Aug. 12, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The Mansfield school district and all of its campuses met the state’s new accountability standards, a broader measurement that local officials have been implementing since the spring of 2012.

All other Tarrant County school districts also reached the benchmark, although 39 schools – 28 in the Fort Worth district – fell short in the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, according to results released last week by the Texas Education Agency.

The new STAAR system, which replaced the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS), is based on standardized test scores, graduation rates, student readiness for college or work, year-to-year student growth and narrowing of racial achievement gaps.

The basically pass-fail system rates district and school performance as either “met standard” or “improvement required.”

Mansfield School Board President Beth Light said she was not surprised at the results but relieved that the preparation – including staff development and improved technologies – appeared to pay off.

“I think we all felt that we had done what we needed to do,” Light said. But she took issue with how much the state assessment relies on its testing structure. Like anyone, she said, a student could just be having a “bad day” on a test day.

“We expect kids to perform at their optimum on one day out of the year” in each subject, Light added. “If you’re a student, that one day would determine your whole year. I wish we could come up with a better method to look at student achievement.”

The state legislature approved the STAAR system in 2007. In the TAKS era, the education agency graded districts and schools on a four-tier system – exemplary, recognized, academically acceptable or academically unacceptable.

The state has been proficient in coming up with new assessment systems.

TAKS was implemented in 2003, replacing the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS), which replaced Texas Assessment of Basic Skills (TABS) in 1990. TABS was the first statewide testing program, implemented in 1979. Many adjustments to the programs have been implemented along the way.

Consequently, school districts have needed to be nimble.

“This isn’t the first time school districts have had to learn a new accountability system in Texas,” said Mansfield school district spokesman Richie Escovedo. “It just takes following the procedures and following the manual. We take our cues from the state and do what it takes to meet the need.

“There is a learning curve in all of this,” he added.

Not only did all Mansfield schools earn passing marks, three elementary schools -- Nancy Neal, Cora Spencer and Tarver-Rendon – received special recognition. They achieved all three “distinctions” – in reading/English language arts, math and Top 25 percent student progress in their comparison group of campuses.

Superintendent Jim Vaszauskas was unavailable for comment but registered his pleasure with the STAAR results via Escovedo.

“It was right in line with expectations, but it’s still good to see it in its final form,” Escovedo quoted Vaszauskas as saying.

Districts achieve a passing mark if they meet all performance targets. Those that receive a rating of “improvement requirement” fell short on one or more targets.

Statewide, 93 percent of school districts and charter schools passed, as did 84 percent of campuses. Nine percent received ratings of “improvement required,” including 477 elementary schools, 133 middle schools and 129 high schools.

“A transition to a new accountability system comes with a great deal of uncertainty,” state Education Commissioner Michael Williams said in a news release. “The 2013 ratings confirm that the vast majority of districts and campuses are meeting the state’s standards and providing a quality education for our students.”

Other details on the STAAR results will be presented at the Aug. 27 school board meeting.

-- This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641 Twitter: @Kaddmann

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