In The Classroom

HISD boasts gains on TAKS tests

Thursday, May 26, 2011

HISD students this year made significant gains on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) math and science exams, two subjects that have long proven to be the most difficult to master.

The boost in achievement happened both in terms of better passing rates and a higher percentage of students reaching the tougher 'commended' level that shows whether students are learning at a pace that will prepare them for college and meaningful careers.

Overall, the percentage of HISD students passing all subjects tested by the TAKS grew by nine percentage points, to 72 percent. The percentage of students scoring at the 'commended' level in all subjects on the TAKS or TAKS-Accommodated exams now stands at 15 percent, a 5-point increase from a year ago.

In math, the percentage of HISD students passing increased by two percentage points, to 81 percent. The percentage of students reaching the 'commended' level in math also climbed 2 percentage points to reach 29 percent.

In science, HISD students raised their passing rate by two percentage points to 81 percent and their 'commended' rate by four percentage points, to 29 percent.

On the social studies exam, the overall passing rate increased one percentage point, to 95 percent, and the 'commended' rate increased two percentage points to 42 percent.

Superintendent Terry Grier said the progress made by HISD students is a credit to the district's strong teachers and principals.

"Nothing has a bigger impact on student academic performance than great teaching," Dr. Grier said. "When our students excel, it is a direct reflection on the work of Houston's professional educators."

The district's overall reading passing rate remained unchanged at 85 percent, while the 'commended' rate grew two percentage points, to 30 percent. On the writing exam, HISD's passing rate now stands at 91 percent, two points lower than last year. The writing 'commended' rate was unchanged at 30 percent.

Superintendent Grier in January announced his intention to overhaul HISD's approach to reading instruction, which has become unwieldy as schools employ dozens of different reading programs. Grier has tasked newly hired Deputy Chief Academic Officer Alicia Hill Thomas with leading the implementation of a districtwide reading curriculum.

"We're really going to have to take a deep-dive look at what needs to be done and what has to be changed, particularly in our secondary schools, for all of our children to receive the quality of education that they deserve and that they are receiving in some of our schools," Dr. Grier said.

Students in the nine schools that just concluded year one of the three-year Apollo 20 school turnaround program made the greatest gains.

Sixth-grade students who were enrolled at Apollo 20 schools for the entire school year posted an 85 percent passing rate on the TAKS math exam, 22 points higher than sixth graders at those schools in 2010.

Apollo 20 ninth graders enrolled the entire school year produced a 72 percent passing rate in math, which is 16 points better than last year's freshman class.

Apollo 20 students also showed significant progress in science and social studies.

Apollo 20 students who received an extra hour of daily reading instruction, however, did not demonstrate significantly greater mastery of the subject. As a result, HISD will re-evaluate the reading curriculum and teaching practices used in the Apollo 20 schools.

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