Seventy-six percent of Houston Independent School District fifth-graders passed the 2017 State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness math test — a six-point boost over the previous year and a slightly higher gain than the state average.
Third-graders also saw a four-point bump on the state math test, bringing their average up to 71 percent, which is a four-point boost over last year and also a higher gain than the state.
The math passing rate for all students together in grades three through eight jumped by three percentage points, with almost every grade level seeing a boost. Only sixth grade remained flat.
The district bucked state trends in several areas with higher gains than the state average on fifth- and eighth-grade science exams, the eighth-grade social studies exam, and the fourth-and seventh-grade writing exams.
On the science portion of the state test, the district saw a two-point increase in scores, while the state remained flat. District results on the social studies and writing portions of the test remained flat, despite a downward trend at the state level.
Reading scores remained flat, generally following state trends.
“While we are buoyed by the gains made in math, we will be increasing our efforts around literacy at the elementary and middle school level,” Superintendent Richard Carranza said. “We will be looking at best practices that we can implement and providing ongoing training and coaching to our teachers to ensure all students are reading on or above grade level and no one falls through the cracks.”
The results come as the Texas Education Agency has revised how it labels a student’s performance on the tests in third through 12th grades. The new labels are Masters Grade Level, Meets Grade Level, Approaches Grade Level, and Does Not Meet Grade Level. Previously, student performance was ranked as Advanced, Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory.
The percentage of students scoring at or above the Meets and Masters Grade Level Standards — the two highest designations — when looking at both English and Spanish STAAR results combined, increased from 2016 to 2017 in reading, mathematics, science, and social studies.
Results from the same group show the achievement gap between certain racial subgroups — specifically white and Asian students compared to African American and Hispanic students — narrowed slightly from the previous year in mathematics and science, but remained mostly the same in reading and writing and increased slightly in social studies.
The percentage of economically disadvantaged students meeting state standards in third through eighth grades increased in mathematics and science, but decreased in reading and writing and held steady in social studies. The percentage of students reaching the higher Meets or Masters Grade Level categories increased across reading, mathematics, science, and social studies.
Additionally, more English Language Learners in grades three through eight passed math, writing, science, and social studies over the previous year, and reading scores held steady.
The district continues to focus on the implementation and expansion of Literacy by 3, an initiative that aims to use leveled classroom libraries, phonics and word work, and guided and independent reading to have all students reading at or above level by third grade.
Literacy in Middle — the middle school component of the initiative — focuses on best practices for reading aloud and independent reading, as well as writing, and small group instruction across all core disciplines. It also provides middle schools with additional classroom materials and libraries.
During the 2017-2018 school year, the initiative will be expanded to all high schools with the launch of Literacy Empowered, a continuation of the earlier programs. Training continues throughout the summer, and all high schools will receive books and digital classroom libraries as part of the $2 million program.
At the high school level, the district saw a five-point increase in students passing the 2017 Algebra I STAAR End-of-Course exam, following state trends. Scores for U.S. History remained flat, while scores for Biology dipped by one point, both mirroring the state results.
The district’s results for English I remained flat, while the results for English II dropped by two points. The decreases are slightly higher than the state average for both courses.
Students must pass all five of the above End-of-Course assessments to graduate.
“I’m proud of the gains in our EOC results, but we know there is more work to be done — especially in English I and II,” Carranza said. “In the coming year, campuses will see increased support and resources from Literacy Empowered and Achieve 180. We also will be closely monitoring student progress from elementary through high school, with more professional development among feeder patterns.”
On the End-Of-Course exams, more first-time testers fell into the Meets and Masters Grade Level categories this year in Algebra I, Biology, and U.S. History when compared with 2016. In Algebra I, the results for Meets Grade Level grew by 4 percentage points, from 42 percent to 46 percent, and the Masters Grade Level grew by 3 percentage points, from 23 percent to 26 percent.
The percentage of students at Masters Grade Level increased by 1 percentage point in English I, and the percentage of students at or above the Meets Grade Level standard increased by 3 percentage points in English II.
In U.S. History, the number of first-time testers who fell into the Masters Grade Level category increased by 7 percentage points over the previous year, jumping from 24 to 31 percent. In Biology, the increase was 3 percentage points.
The performance gap between white and African-American students decreased in Algebra I and Biology, by 3 and 2 percentage points, respectively. However, the performance gap between white, African-American, and Hispanic students who took the test for the first time appeared to be slightly increasing or flat elsewhere compared with 2016.
HISD 2017 STAAR Results
Percentage indicates percent of students who met state’s current satisfactory passing standard.
Grade 3: 64 percent
Grade 4: 61 percent
Grade 5: 64 percent
Grade 6: 58 percent
Grade 7: 65 percent
Grade 8: 68 percent
Grade 3: 71 percent
Grade 4: 69 percent
Grade 5: 76 percent
Grade 6: 69 percent
Grade 7: 64 percent
Grade 8: 65 percent
Grade 4: 58 percent
Grade 7: 64 percent
Grade 5: 67 percent
Grade 8: 66 percent
Grade 8: 53 percent
HISD 2017 STAAR End-of-Course Exam Results
Algebra I: 79 percent
Biology: 81 percent
English I: 60 percent
English II: 62 percent
U.S. History: 89 percent