Leander ISD looks at how to improve STAAR test results

Leander ISD staff are working to understand and improve student performance on the annual State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, assessments.

District administration members presented results from an analysis of the latest assessment results to the Leander ISD board of trustees May 4. The district used a program called INOVA to review the data, and district Chief of Staff Matt Smith said the program can help faculty look at how students perform and analyze how intervention may help support performance.

Based on the data, students could be coded to determine their likelihood to pass the STAAR test, as well as divided into three performance groups: those who underperformed, those who met expectations or those who overperformed during their last assessment, regardless of whether they passed the test.

Superintendent Dan Troxell said he values understanding the progress of each student, saying the “pass-fail model is blatantly a false methodology for evaluating whether kids are really progressing.” He said even students who are likely to pass the test should take it each year to determine progress over time.

To put the data to the test, Cypress Elementary School faculty selected a group of students from the three performance groups. Administration members then collected data on each student beyond their academic scores, including attendance, education programs enrolled in, and emotional and social status in the classroom.

Principal Vicky Draper said all the students in the study were put on a board in her office and color coded based on these factors. After looking at the student as a whole, she said faculty identified the student’s driver, the one attribute that held the student back the most. What they found, Draper said, was there was more intervention needed than just academic support.

“What we identified for many of the students that we had on my board were that they need either mentors or they need counseling support or some type of intervention along those lines,” she said. “They had test anxiety, they had attendance concerns, they had different things like that that we need to address in a completely different way.”

Teachers set up four-week intervention plans and then reported back to the principal. Students then retook sections of the STAAR test. In one example, a group of six fifth-grade students retook the math portion of the assessment. After intervention efforts, five of six students passed. Only two of the six students passed last year. All of them, Draper said, scored significantly better than they had scored previously.

The strategies developed by staff can now be translated to other schools, Troxell said, and adjusted to fit each school’s needs. Draper said Cypress Elementary is already using the data collected to plan classes for next year.

“I’m very hopeful that we’ve caught things early, and we’re able to make a difference for them at this level that we can prevent things; we’ve taken a proactive stance that we didn’t have before, that we were missing before really,” she said.


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