LISD ranks third in area STAAR results, board anticipates tax rate increase

Leander ISD's scores on the first round of standardized end-of-course exams ranked third among some Central Texas districts, according to self-reported data presented to the school board July 19.

In late spring, ninth-graders across the state—along with eighth-graders enrolled in advanced math—took the first round of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness end-of-course exams. Although the district will not learn passing rates for grades 3–8 until January, an average of 90 percent of those taking the STAAR end-of-course exam met passing standards.

"Based on current phase-in standards, our students did quite well," said Sarah Martinez, director of accountability and system measures. "We were 10-21 points above the state in all subject areas."

The Texas Education Agency plans to raise the minimum passing score for end-of-course exams every two years through 2016. Essentially, a barely passing score this school year would not be considered satisfactory in future years, Martinez said.

The state requires LISD to tutor non-passing students to help them pass the retest exams, the first of which were held in July. Debbie Sommer, director of assessment and accountability, said the district contacted every household to let them know about the additional lessons and testing.

"We got 250 students [to] show up to test, which is about 50 percent of those who needed to retest," Sommer said. "The district spent $10,950 on test administrators, and that doesn't include all people who are already on contract. The jump in the economics and the cost of it is very significant and will only increase as we have to give more retests."

Grades 10 and 11 were not subject to STAAR testing as they instead continued taking the Texas Assessments of Knowledge and Skills.

Sommer said she expects to receive retest scores the second week of September. The next round of retest administrations will be in December.

Students must achieve a cumulative passing average on all 12 end-of-course exams in order to graduate from high school, according to the TEA.

The state has not published official STAAR end-of-course exam results, though individual campuses received preliminary scores.

Budget

Assistant Superintendent for Business and Operations Ellen Skoviera presented the board with preliminary budget projections, noting an estimated 4.5 percent increase in enrollment compared with the 2011-12 school year. The overall budget is slated to increase by 5.67 percent, with a per-student increase of 2.68 percent, according to district documents.

Though not certified by the appraisal districts, estimated property values reflect a 3.47 percent increase. District documents state that if the expected percent growth holds true, LISD would increase its interest-and-sinking tax rate by 1.144 cents, for a total tax rate of $1.5112 per $100 of property value. The current LISD tax rate is $1.49976 per $100 of valuation.

Skoviera said once the chief appraisers certify 2012 property values on July 25, staff can recommend a tax rate to the board for discussion and adoption. The board meets Aug. 9 to hear presentations about the tax roll and tax rate. They convene again at 7 p.m. Aug 23 for a public hearing, discussion and possible action on the proposed 2012-13 budget and tax rate.

Expenditures

The LISD school board approved releasing $120,821 for three bus driver positions and one athletics facilities director position for the upcoming school year, which starts Aug. 27.

It also approved spending up to $606,747 for street lights and groundwater drainage surrounding the site of a future high school, near Benbrook Ranch neighborhood on North Bagdad Road in Leander. The total cost for infrastructure at the site, which could eventually host two secondary campuses, is $5.9 million. Jimmy Disler, executive director of capital improvements, said $550,000 of those infrastructure costs will be paid by the Benbrook Ranch subdivision developer John Lloyd.

Based on the latest demographer's report, Disler said the district's sixth high school is slated to open in 2015. The board will review updated data before moving forward with construction plans as early as next spring, he said.



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