The first round of STAAR testing is complete. Evidently, things went very well for the 5th and 8th graders of SISD this time around. That’s according to the district’s press release. If you need a refresher, the release itself can be found here. The district released its story about the scores on April 24th. At the time, there was no way to confirm the facts presented. But now the Texas Education Agency has made all of the data available. Let’s do a little fact-checking on the press release.
First, SISD released a summary of all of the scores by campus. This is an image of that summary:
I highlighted in red the numbers that are off by 3 percentage points or more from the actual scores. As you can see, there are quite a few discrepancies. And all but one are higher than the actual scores.
After the scores summary, the district noted some of the highlights. Let’s look at those claims.
Here’s what the district said:
1. “Koennecke students out performed Alamo Heights students by 2 points in Reading and 5 points in Math.”
This is true! They did! Of course, this compares just a small portion of our students to the 5th grade of an entire district, but it is true. Koennecke performed great this year. Kudos! Comparing district to district, however, doesn’t look so rosy: Seguin ISD lagged 18 percentage points in 5th grade reading and 20 in 5th grade math. You can see that data here.
2. “Growth is seen in 18 of 22 areas across the district with all 8th grade reading scores above 70%.”
This is not true, at least for the 8th grade reading scores. While it is true that overall, the passing rate for the 8th grade reading test rose from 66% to 72%, many sub-populations remain below 70%. Black students had a passing rate of 68%, Hispanic students 67%, and Economically Disadvantaged students 66%. That report is here.
3. “70 more students passed (grades 5 and 8 Reading and Math).”
Not quite. The data shows that 64 more students passed, not 70. Close enough, you say? Perhaps, but there were 60 more students tested this year than last, so this claim is failing to clear the truthfulness bar by not providing all of the information. That report is here.
4. “African- American students – Reading scores increased from 54% passing after the 2nd administration in 2015 to 71% passing after 1 administration @ higher standards.”
This is true! Nice work!
5. “Compared to San Antonio area schools, Seguin’s 5th grade students out- performed 10 of 16 schools.”
To be honest, I didn’t hunt for the results from all of the 5th and 8th grade students in all of the schools in the “San Antonio area”. However, there are more than 16 elementary schools in San Antonio ISD alone, never mind the rest of the area, so how did the district come up with the pool of 16? Did they pick the top 16? Unlikely. The bottom 16? They don’t say.
6. “McQueeney increased 21% points in Reading and 22% points in Math.”
Sort of. They increased 20 percentage points in reading, which is fantastic! The math scores did increase, but by 18 percentage points instead of 22.
7. “Jefferson increased 17% points in Reading and 18% points in Math.”
Again, sort of, but not really. Jefferson’s reading scores increased 13 percentage points in reading and 13 percentage points in math. It’s still really good, but it’s not what the district reported to the public.
Want to run the numbers yourself? You can! Right here.
The district’s press release also editorializes:
“Over the past 9 months, the district has REVERSED the performance trajectory from negative to positive student performance. Although there are some areas that are still lagging, the BOARD is not done YET, but the BOARD knew what it was doing when deciding to change DIRECTION.” (Emphases are not mine, but the district’s)
Did they though? Really?
Koennecke and Weinert performed strongly, but they were high-performing schools before. McQueeney saw a huge boost, but that is most likely due to the reassignment of Yomeida Guerra to that school as principal. She has a history of excellent performance as an elementary principal and has demonstrated that once again. She was moved there last spring by Acting Superintendent Guadalupe Gorordo, so the Board of Trustees and current superintendent cannot claim credit for this very impressive achievement. Meanwhile, Rodriguez Elementary’s reading scores dropped, as did Vogel’s. Patlan’s scored dropped precipitously in both reading and math. To be fair, the current administration can take credit for the improvement at Jefferson, where the gains were impressive.
Also to keep in mind: this year’s mixed results were achieved in the context of nearly exclusive “teaching to the test” over the last 3 months. The teaching of social studies and science was severely curtailed and many students were coached on test-taking rather than spending time in the classroom.
Finally, let’s not forget the “Big Promise”. Last fall, Superintendent Roane promised to cut the number of students failing the tests by 50% in his first year. Last year, over 2,700 students failed at least one of the tests. Of those,616 failed a 5th or 8th grade reading or math test in the initial round of testing. So far this year, 612 have failed. It’s hard to see how the superintendent’s target gets met.
There are some real reasons to applaud our students, teachers, and administrators for this year’s STAAR performance. A future post will talk about those. There are some real things to celebrate. In addition, there are some reasons for real concern. Unfortunately, one of those reasons for concern is that the information the district is providing to the community is inaccurate. Is this intentional or unintentional? That I cannot say. In either case, it is a serious concern. If intentional, then the district leadership and, in this case, the Board of Trustees, is attempting to mislead the public into thinking the district is performing better than, in fact, it is. If unintentional, it demonstrates a sloppiness that, I am certain, would not be tolerated by our teachers in the classroom.
Together, we can do better.