Results released by the Texas Education Agency in February of STAAR test scores for grades 3-8 show Katy ISD's students scored higher than both state and regional averages in every subject.
Freda Corbell Creech, executive director for school improvement and student support with the district, described STAAR as "more rigorous" than its predecessor—TAKS—but said the district was pleased with the efforts of its students.
"Each time you start a new test, you expect the scores to be not as high as they were," she said. "In my experience, the district has [a pattern] where it gets better with time. We did as good as we projected, if not better."
In reading, writing, science and social studies all grade levels scored at least 10 percent higher than state averages. In math, grades 2–7 scored more than 10 percent higher and eighth grade scored 6 percent higher, according to a presentation given to the Board of Trustees by Creech Feb. 25.
As the state's fifth standardized test, Creech said, STAAR is virtually unrecognizable from its predecessors whose questions relied more heavily on visuals and one-step problems.
"Problem solving used to be its own thing, but in STAAR problem solving is in everything else," said Kim Lawson, executive director for curriculum and instruction. "The questions are much deeper. You did not just need to know math facts, but [also] how to really read the questions."
STAAR's test questions contain a "higher cognitive complexity level," Creech said. There is more emphasis on critical thinking and less focus on testing a wide range of skills, and students must now complete the test in four hours instead of taking an entire school day.
Teachers have only seen sample questions from the test, Lawson said, and will receive a full copy of a version of STAAR in the fall. Creech said then the district can analyze what type of questions were most challenging to students and how it can better prepare them.
"When we get the test, we will get to see how the state is assessing certain items," Lawler said.
The state will not issue new accreditation statuses to districts for the 2012–13 school year, according to an announcement from Commissioner of Education Michael L. Williams. A district's accreditation status can be one of four levels—accredited, warned, probation and revoked. The status is based partially on students' performance on standardized tests.