PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

February 1, 2013

PAISD STAAR scores fall below state norms

Roger Cowles
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Port Arthur eighth graders scored 20 percentage points below the state average in social studies, 19 points below in science and 11 points below in math, according to STAAR scores released by the district Thursday. The gap narrowed to single digits in reading, with local students scoring 7 points below their counterparts statewide.

The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness tests were given for the first time in spring 2012, replacing the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills — TAKS test. The criteria for the “met standard” levels were not set until Fall, 2012, and released in January, a statement from PAISD said.

“As with the high school STAAR tests, passing standards are being phased in for the elementary and middle school tests using a four-year, two-step process. This approach provides school districts with time to adjust instruction, provide additional training for teachers, and close knowledge gaps,” the Texas Education Agency said on its Web site.

“As it is obvious by performance of schools around the state, tools for teaching the curriculum at the expected levels of rigor are in place and available to all. No excuses are acceptable.  Students in the Port Arthur Independent School District deserve to receive a high quality of education, and it is the responsibility of all District personnel to do their best each day to make sure this is accomplished,” a statement from PAISD Superintendent Johnny Brown and Deputy Superintendent Mark Porterie stated.

When asked about the scores at Washington Elementary, which ranged from a low of 14 percent of students achieving the standard in fourth grade math to a high of 46 percent of third graders reaching the reading standard, Porterie said the principal has a plan in place to improve scores.

“We are working hard at bringing those scores up, where students can be successful,” Porter said in a telephone interview Thursday.

“Performance data indicates that the students of the Port Arthur Independent School District CAN learn the material, as evidenced by significantly higher student performance on certain campuses,” the statement from PAISD said. “Even within a campus, pockets of higher performance as well as lower performance exist. We are encouraged by performance at Lee Elementary, Travis Elementary, Tyrrell Elementary, Jefferson Middle School and Lincoln Middle School where student performance was at or above the state average in many areas.”

Despite individual student performance, campus performance met or exceeded state averages in only two subjects at Lee Elementary and in three subjects at Travis Elementary, according to the information released Thursday by the district. Every other subject at every other grade level at every elementary and middle school campus was below the state norms.

“We are concerned about the campuses where student performance was below par, such as at Dowling Elementary, Houston Elementary, and Booker T. Washington Elementary. Yet, we know there is always room for improvement and we will narrow attention to areas where data reveals the most serious pockets of concern,” The district statement said.

The district said strategies to address these needs will be reviewed and implemented include, but are not limited to:

1. Learn from what we do well. Campuses that perform well consistently teach the required curriculum, maximize time-on-task, and have strategies in place to differentiate instruction to meet the individual needs of students, etc. Review these best practices, and share among campuses.

2. Blitz campuses that did not perform well, with focus on the particular grade levels/subjects needing improvement. Analyze the instructional methods and materials being used in these areas.

3. The classroom teacher ultimately is responsible for the quality of instruction delivered. Ensure that each classroom teacher has the training and materials to deliver instruction at a high level of rigor.

4. Use Response to Intervention strategies to assist struggling students.