80 percent of fifth- and eighth-graders pass state’s math test

05/01/2014 7:10 PM

05/02/2014 8:37 AM

Area fifth- and eighth-graders showed slight gains in math during the first round of high-stakes Texas tests — a trend that mirrored state results.

Texas school districts received preliminary results on State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness or STAAR tests for fifth- and eighth-grade math and reading. More than 650,000 fifth- and eighth-grade students took the tests in early April. Their final scores later are crucial, because according to state law, fifth- and eighth-grade students must pass the STAAR to move on to the next grade.

Most school districts in the Tarrant County area released their preliminary scores to the Star-Telegram. Many of them made small gains in math or performed the same as last year, while some had declines in reading.

Lake Worth’s fifth-grade math passing rate showed one of the most dramatic improvements in the Tarrant County area — from 63 percent last year to 79 percent this year, a 25 percent increase.

Lake Worth Superintendent David Wayne Fitts said the district has worked with students to improve reading and math test scores even as state assessment tests are undergoing changes, because it expects standards to get tougher.

“We will continue to work hard for our students and community,” Fitts said.

Charlie Carroll, the Keller school district’s chief academic officer, said district officials are pleased with gains in math, especially among eighth-graders, who had a 6 percent increase in the passing rate.

Seeing the improvement is “really gratifying,” Carroll said, because Keller educators have been focusing on math skills. Meanwhile, Keller’s eighth-grade scores in reading held steady while fifth-grade scores declined slightly. Carroll said the 2 percent margin is not statistically significant.

“We appreciate all the hard work of teachers and students,” Carroll said.

Working to make more gains

Students who failed the test have two more chances to pass.

Statewide, fifth- and eighth-grade students improved on their first attempt at the test. Math passing rates were up slightly at 79 percent for both grades, but reading passing rates dipped a bit in both grades. Statewide, fifth-grade reading went from 77 percent to 76 percent. The eighth-grade reading score went from 84 percent last year to 82 percent.

Area school leaders were encouraged by how their early results compare to the state picture. Still, educators echoed the notion that hard work must continue.

Fort Worth Superintendent Walter Dansby noted that during the first administration of the test Fort Worth fifth-grade students made some gains in math, but still performed lower than the statewide rate.

“We are optimistic,” Dansby said, adding that scores stayed the same or gained slightly. “We are pleased with what we have — especially with the gains.”

But he said more gains need to be made. For example, Fort Worth schools also saw a slight increase in eighth-grade math passing rates, with 73 percent meeting the standard, up from last year’s 71 percent but still below the state average.

“We are not happy,” Dansby said. “I think there is a lot more room for improvement and we are working on those things.”

Like Fort Worth, Arlington wants to improve.

Arlington schools saw nearly a 6 percent boost in fifth-grade math scores from last year, but they were still lower than the state average.

“We are a lot stronger than last year in terms of all the systems we have in place for students,” said Renee Pope, Arlington’s director of curriculum and instruction.

Arlington fifth-graders saw a 72 percent pass rate in math this year, up from 68 percent last year. But fifth-grade reading and eighth-grade math flatlined. Eighth-grade reading scores dipped by 1.2 percent.

The Arlington dip in reading mirrored the state’s rates, which were down slightly from the previous year.

“We will not give up at all,” chief academic officer Evan Smith said. “We will use this data, analyze it and work on a plan to improve.”

Doing the math

Arlington officials say data analysis helped them improve math scores.

Across Tarrant County, school leaders worked with elementary principals to put systems in place. In various districts, students who fail are placed in learning groups to drill on concepts they missed. Students also are tutored or spend many school hours trying to gain ground in time for the retest.

In Arlington, data was used to find the strengths and weaknesses in specific areas of math, and teachers worked with individuals to address their needs. The data was pulled from previous scores.

Arlington officials said the district saw an increase in math scores because the students had a “greater distance to travel” in math than reading.

Arlington eighth-grade students retained a 79 percent passing rate in math this year, the same as the statewide rate.

“We made some improvements, but we still are not where we’d like to be,” Pope said.

SCHOOL DISTRICTS 5th Grade Math 2013-14 5th Grade Math 2012-13 % Change 5th Grade Reading 2013-14 5th Grade Reading 2012-13 % Change
Statewide 79 75 +5.3% 76 77 -1.3%
Fort Worth 68 66 +3 % 66 67 -1.5%
Arlington 72 68 +5.9% 75 75 0%
Burleson 86 84 +2.4% 85 87 -2.3%
Everman 80 81 -1.2% 74 76 -2.6%
Lake Worth 79 63 +25.4% 70 68 +2.9%
White Settlement 72 68 +5.9 82 79 +3.8%
Hurst-Euless-Bedford 86 84 +2.4% 84 86 -2.3%
Grapevine-Colleyville 89 86 +3.5% 91 89 +2.2%
Birdville 82 79 +3.8% 83 80 +3.8%
Carroll 98 96 +2.1% 98 96 +2.1%
Castleberry 78 80 -2.5% 69 70 -1.4%
Northwest 86 83 +3.6% 87 87 0%
Keller 85 84 +1.2 86 88 -2.3%
Eagle Mountain-Saginaw 77 74 +4.1% 80 83 -3.6%
Aledo 92 85 +8.2 91 93 -2.2
SCHOOL DISTRICTS 8th Grade Math 2013-14 8th Grade Math 2012-13 % Change 8th Grade Reading 2013-14 8th Grade Reading 2012-13 % Change
Statewide 79 77 +2.6% 82 84 -2.4%
Fort Worth 73 71 +2.8 69 70 -1.4%
Arlington 79 79 0% 82 83 -1.2%
Burleson 90 89 +1.1 91 90 +1.1
Everman 77 69 +11.6% 78 77 +1.3%
Lake Worth 76 76 0% 75 76 -1.3%
White Settlement 74 68 +8.8% 83 86 -3.5%
Hurst-Euless-Bedford 89 85 +4.7% 91 91 0%
Grapevine-Colleyville 90 88 +2.3% 92 92 0%
Birdville 89 84 +6% 86 86 0%
Carroll 98 98 0% 99 98 1%
Castleberry 71 72 -1.4% 75 81 -7.4%
Northwest 93 90 +3.3% 95 94 +1.1%
Keller 86 81 +6.2 94 94 0%
Eagle Mountain-Saginaw 79 80 -1.3 % 90 90 0%
Aledo 95 94 -1.1 96 94 +2

Staff writers Sandra Engelland and Yamil Berard contributed to this report.

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