July 29, 2011
Round Rock ISD students continued to perform well as a whole on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test, with more than 90 percent of students passing in each of the five subject areas and 34 out of 46 campuses earning exemplary and recognized ratings.
Although many Round Rock ISD schools retained high ratings of recognized and exemplary, the district had two schools which received a rating of "Academically Unacceptable:" Bluebonnet Elementary and Cedar Ridge High School.
At Bluebonnet, 64% of the Hispanic student group passed the Writing portion of the test; TEA requires a 70% passing rate for all student groups to retain an Acceptable rating. Cedar Ridge High School had two student groups not meet the 65% passing requirement on the Math portion of the test with 52% of African American students and 58% of Economically Disadvantaged students passing Math.
"Although we are obviously disappointed with the above results, they have provided us a target to aim for in the upcoming school year," Superintendent Dr. Jesús H. Chávez said. "These scores are a bump in the road, and the district plans to triple its efforts to ensure that all students meet national, state and district standards in the coming year."
This marks the last year for the TAKS test, as the state will transition to the new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) starting in 2012. During this last year of TAKS, TEA implemented several changes which significantly impacted campus ratings in Round Rock ISD and in districts across the state which include: the elimination of the Texas Projection Measure (TPM) for ratings purposes, the addition of five new accountability measures, increasing the passing percentage for math and science and the inclusion of the TAKS-Modified and TAKS-Alternate test results taken by Special Education students.
The TEA developed TPM as a growth measure and permitted its use in its federal and state accountability systems. TPM allowed schools and districts to receive credit for students who did not meet passing standards on state tests, but who demonstrated they were projected to pass in a subsequent year. When compared to recent history, without taking TPM into account, Round Rock ISD stayed even or saw only a 1 percent decrease in its scores among all students; however, eliminating TPM created a larger impact on individual campus ratings.
Unfortunately, although the student performance across the district qualifies the district for the "Recognized" rating, under the state accountability system a district cannot receive a "Recognized" rating if any of its campuses are rated as "Academically Unacceptable." Therefore, Round Rock ISD has received a state rating of "Academically Acceptable" for the upcoming school year.
Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) scores and campus and school district ratings from across the state were released Friday, July 29 by the Texas Education Agency, and although many schools within Round Rock ISD retained their ratings of "Recognized" and "Exemplary," the district saw two schools receive a rating of "Academically Unacceptable."
Bluebonnet Elementary and Cedar Ridge High School were labeled "Academically Unacceptable" when portions of their student population did not meet TAKS standards. At Bluebonnet, 64 percent of the Hispanic student group passed the Writing portion of the test, while TEA requires a 70 percent passing rate for a school to be deemed "Academically Acceptable." Cedar Ridge High School had two student groups not meet the 65 percent passing requirement on the Math portion of the test with 52 percent of African American students and 58 percent of Economically Disadvantaged students passing the Math portion; TEA requires a passing rate of 65 percent for a school to be deemed "Academically Acceptable."
Unfortunately, although student performance across the district qualifies the district for the "Recognized" rating, under the state accountability system a district cannot receive a "Recognized" rating if any of its campuses are rated as "Academically Unacceptable." Therefore, the district is expected to receive a state rating of "Academically Acceptable" in July.
"Although we are obviously disappointed with the above results, they have provided us a target to aim for in the upcoming school year," Superintendent Dr. Jesús H. Chávez said. "These scores are a bump in the road, and the district plans to triple its efforts to ensure that all students meet national, state and district standards."
The district received preliminary results at the end of the 2010-2011 school year which indicated the possible low ratings at Bluebonnet Elementary and Cedar Ridge High School, and immediately conducted an in-depth analysis to determine the cause as well as a plan to put the schools on the right track for the upcoming year.
"As soon as we found out that these schools had scored low we immediately started redesigning and implementing additional campus interventions to be more proactive and better serve all our students," Toni Garcia, Deputy Superintendent of Instruction and Administration, said. "We have worked tirelessly this summer with our students, staff and community to put systems into place at these campuses that will increase student academic achievement for all students, and particularly those who have struggled in the past."
Dr. Daniel Presley opened Cedar Ridge HS to students last fall and said he was surprised at the low rating, although he anticipated that their TAKS scores may not be as high as other high schools since the school was only opened to freshman and sophomores. Typically in high schools, scores are more balanced as juniors also take the test. The juniors help to bring up TAKS scores as they have an added incentive because the junior level exam requires students to pass in order to graduate.
In preparation for having only two grades testing, the campus instituted many preventions and interventions to reach students who were struggling in their classes during the 2010-2011 school year and plans to triple its efforts in the upcoming school year to close the gaps shown during testing.
"I was surprised at our scores because we knew our population well and we implemented a number of strategies even before school started last year, but we have some kids with some big challenges and even with all we did we came up a bit short in some areas," Dr. Presley said. "However, when you look at our scores overall we're a good, solid school; we just have to work on a few areas to meet the state requirements. This in no way defines Cedar Ridge."
Campus administrators, teachers and students began that work this summer with a remedial math program for students who did not pass Algebra 1 or Geometry and have other plans in place to ensure students will meet state and district requirements. As the state is moving to a new testing system, State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR), the district and campuses will not receive a new rating for the next two years but Dr. Presley said regardless of whether the state updates the school's label in the next two years, the community will continue to see the school's progress and improvement.
"This rating is for 2010-2011, and even though that's the last rating TEA is going to give us for a few years we're going to keep letting our community and parents know our progress," Dr. Presley said. "It's my job to let our parents know how we're doing and if TEA were to put a label on us, what it would be."
Dr. Presley praised the new state accountability system, saying a move to the STAAR and End of Course (EOC) exams has the potential to create a culture where students of all grade levels feel the need to pass all their classes and tests in order to graduate, rather than focusing only on passing the TAKS exam in their junior year.
Despite the small setback, Dr. Presley said he continues to see a positive response from his parents and community and expects to continue to receive support as they work to ensure all students meet their academic targets. Dawn Watson, president of the school's Parent\Teacher\Student Association, agreed, saying she still firmly believes Cedar Ridge is one of the best campuses in the district and that many parents agree with her.
"My personal feeling is that this is one particular score that came in," Watson said. "It's only one piece of our campus and it's not fair that it be judged only on that because Cedar Ridge has had a hugely successful year. I would hope people would look at the big picture and not just the small piece. From the PTSA standpoint, we'll do whatever we need to do to continue supporting our campus and our students."
Both schools have scheduled parent meetings during the summer to inform parents of the new school ratings, as well as discuss plans for the upcoming school year. Additionally, the district and campuses have taken a proactive measure in communicating with stakeholders by reaching out and asking them to be a part of the process of improving our schools.
"It takes the work of our teachers, administrators and support staff working hand-in-hand with parents, the community and local businesses to truly provide an enriching educational experience for all students," Dr. Chávez said. "We all play a key role in creating an educated workforce for our future."
The district offers many partnership opportunities for businesses, organizations and individuals to get involved with students and campuses such as Academy partnerships, mentoring, volunteering, donations, fundraising and much more including customized partnership programs. Dr. Presley said one plan for the upcoming year is to step up the mentoring program at Cedar Ridge High School to include both internal and external mentors for struggling students. Any individuals or businesses interested in partnering with Round Rock ISD or a specific campus can go to the district's website, www.roundrockisd.org, and click on Business & Community Involvement. They can also contact the district's Community Partnerships Department at 512-464-5049.
Another partnership opportunity is available through the Round Rock ISD Partners in Education Foundation which develops and allocates resources to the district to enrich, enhance, and maximize the quality of education for all students. The Foundation currently has many programs in place which benefit students including a student career fair, annual school supplies distribution and student scholarships.
"Earlier in the summer Dr. Chávez came to community leaders and asked us to work with him to support our schools, and we are dedicated to ensuring that all Round Rock ISD students receive a multitude of educational opportunities," Foundation President Gregg Miller said. "In addition to our current programs, we are working with the district to identify additional ways the Foundation can support Cedar Ridge High School and Bluebonnet Elementary in improving their performance."