The Scores are Up! Well, Sort of. Some of Them Anyway.

There has been a lot of talk about test scores coming out of Seguin ISD for the last couple of months, accompanied by a lot of congratulations. I generally wait until I can see the data for myself from the TEA before commenting.  What does that data show?

One of the central points the district has made is that our students made large gains made on 5th and 8th grade STAAR tests compared to last year. Let’s take a look at those numbers. This first table shows the pass rates achieved by SISD students on the FIRST administration of the STAAR last spring compared to the first administration in 2015. It does NOT include retest data.

Spring STAAR Testing-Round 1

Test

2015 State

2015 Seguin

Spread

2016 State

2016 Seguin

Spread

Spread Diff.

Reading 5

78

74

-4

75

72

-3

1

Reading 8

78

66

-12

82

72

-10

2

Math 5

79

66

-13

79

69

-10

3

Math 8

75

62

-13

73

59

-14

-1

As you can see, the pass rates for Seguin for 2016 are not very different from 2015. Now, the passing standard was raised by the state, meaning that, in general, students had to answer 1-2 more questions correctly to pass this year. However, with the exception of 8th grade reading, there was not a huge increase in pass rates. Another thing to consider is how we compare to the state average. Historically, we have lagged FAR below state averages in student performance. Here, it’s easier to see that our students did make up some ground compared to the state. However, we are still far behind in most categories.

Another claim the district made is that student performance on the STAAR retest was strong and that boosted the overall pass rates. Let’s take a look at the retest data:

Spring STAAR Retest Results

Test

2016 State

2016 Seguin

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Reading 5

30

27

-3

Math 5

42

52

10

Reading 8

36

34

-2

Math 8

43

28

-15

Here, you can see that we didn’t really outperform the state overall. Some pass rates were higher, some lower, but overall, it’s pretty close.

One area in which Seguin ISD has really struggled historically is with what is called the “achievement gap”. That is the difference in performance between minority groups and everyone else. Did we close that gap over the last year? Let’s look. Again, this is from the initial round of testing.

Spring STAAR Testing-Round 1

Test

2015 Seguin All

2015 Seguin (H)

Spread

2016 Seguin All

2016 Seguin (H)

Spread

Spread

Diff.

Reading 5

74

72

-2

72

66

-6

-4

Reading 8

66

60

-6

72

67

-5

1

Math 5

66

62

-4

69

63

-6

-2

Math 8

62

59

-3

59

56

-3

0

As you can see, the gap persists for Hispanic students, who make up about two-thirds of our student population. If anything, it is perhaps worse this year than it was in 2015.

Finally (tired of numbers yet?), we have heard nothing from the district about the performance of our high school students. That testing data has been absent from any of their discussions and press releases. How did our high school students do? Let’s look at the first-round testing numbers for the End-of-Course exams required for graduation.

Spring End-of-Course Testing 2016

Test

2015

2016

Spread

English I

50

47

-3

English II

53

54

1

Algebra I

67

61

-6

Biology

89

77

-12

U.S. History

89

92

3

You can see from this data why there has been no mention of the scores. Student performance dropped significantly in several areas. Fewer than half of our students passed the English I exam. And the Algebra I pass rate is now below two-thirds. This could indicate that we have some serious instructional issues at the secondary level. Alternatively this could be due to math foundation issues carried over from the lower grade levels.

What’s the take home? There were definitely some improvements at the elementary level. Scores at McQueeney, Jefferson, and Vogel improved. Weinert earned four distinctions, which is excellent. However, Patlan scores decreased. The other campuses were fairly stable. Overall, the gains appear modest and the achievement gaps persist. In addition, the high school data suggest some serious issues that need to be addressed.

My point is this: it’s important to talk about the improvements. There were some. But to completely ignore the areas where we didn’t improve or, worse, where we seriously under-performed, does a disservice to the community and the district because it prevents us from having a serious discussion about the way forward. We have problems that one or two people cannot fix. It’s going to take a broad, sustained effort and that is going to require honest, full discussions about where we are and where we want to go.

Together, we can do better.

Bob Stephens