HISD Lesson for Today: Tutoring Works, Now What Do We Do?
It was a masterful performance. At the start of his press conference Thursday in which he announced gains in math and science student test scores, Houston ISD Superintendent Terry Grier announced that "We're not going to talk about accountability ratings today because we don't have our final results back such as graduation rates, completion rates."
Margaret Downing Terry Grier stays on TAKS.
On Wednesday, Hair Balls released HISD's preliminary state accountability rating that showed a decrease in the number of exemplary and recognized schools over the 2010 school year because of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills scores HISD students received this year. The results, as we said, aren't final -- that'll come this summer after another round of makeup tests are factored in -- but even Grier Thursday was not predicting HISD will match its past levels. Because yes, he did talk about the accountability ratings; it was sort of unavoidable in a discussion of TAKS scores.
"I will say that this year is going to be tougher. For the first time in the state's history, they have added special education students' test scores to the accountability mix and they have raised the bar in math and science by 5 percentage points and in terms of what students' tests scores needed to be, in terms of passing and we no longer use the state projection TPM model," Grier said.
"So we know, like all the other school districts around the country and around our state particularly, that we're going to see a decline in the number of students who were at the exemplary, recognized and acceptable level because of those factors. Factors which our teachers -- that's out of their control. These are causes posed by the state. So I want to be very clear about that," he added.
TPM, or the Texas Projection Measure, is the system the state was using to boost schools' ratings. It used a statistical calculation to decide if a student who failed the TAKS is likely to pass it in the future and then gave the school a bump. Grier said it has given the public a misleading picture of how its public schools are doing.
But as Hair Balls noted Wednesday when it compared HISD's 2011 preliminary scores to the unofficial 2010 scores without TPM, there was a drop from 56 to 50 exemplary schools and from 113 to 95 recognized schools. The district stayed level at 91 acceptable schools and increased from 17 to 26 unacceptable schools. The exemplary gap widened if the 2011 preliminary scores are compared to the final 2010 scores with TPM added -- by which 101 schools were determined to be exemplary.
While the district certainly stands to gain from more students passing the TAKS tests after another try, Grier's mention of graduation rates (for high schools) and completion or drop-out rates (middle schools) could actually mean a few more schools drop into a lower category, as has happened historically in HISD.
Drop-out rates count all the students who don't return to a school by an October reporting date, students who can't be located, or students who do not report back. For example, according to HISD's August 2010 press releases, 8,000 students were enrolled at the beginning of the year in the nine Apollo schools. Recent HISD press releases place current enrollment at approximately 7,000. If the decline in enrollment is due to drop-outs, HISD could see further erosion of nine Apollo 20 schools' accountability ratings.
Completion rate considers the number of students who entered ninth grade and should be graduating four years later. Sharpstown High School, for instance, became academically unacceptable in the past due to extremely poor completion rates. The reporting on these numbers lags by one academic year.
Across the district in both math and science, 81 percent of HISD students passed the tests -- in each case an increase of 2 percentage points over the prior year. In social studies, 95 percent passed, an increase of 1 percentage point. The percentage of students reaching "commended" status in math and science hit 29, an increase of 2 percentage points and 4 respectively.