HISD Takes Action to Help More Students Pass Tougher STAAR Exams

Houston ISD Superintendent Terry Grier is presenting the Board of Education today with a plan to offer intensive summer school programs specifically for students who did not pass the new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exams on their first try.

The plan entails hiring as many as 228 extra summer school teachers to help students pass the state exams required for graduation.  These exams include the new STAAR end-of-course exams taken by ninth-grade students in the spring, and the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills exit-level exam that is still required for students who entered high school before 2011-2012.

Summer school begins for HISD students on Monday.

 This spring, more than 12,000 HISD high school freshmen were the first to attempt the tough end-of-course exams required under STAAR.  Much more rigorous than the old Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS), STAAR is the first state assessment system designed to measure whether students are on track to graduate, prepared for success in college and in the workplace.

 The Texas Legislature required school districts to prepare students for the tougher STAAR exams in the same year that districts lost $5.4 billion in state funding.  HISD campuses operated in 2011-2012 with 835 fewer teachers than in the previous school year and the district has lost about $120 million in state funding.

 Students who did not pass the STAAR end-of-course exams or the TAKS exit-level exam get their next opportunity July 9-12.  Summer school is not mandatory for students who have not passed the STAAR exams, but attendance is highly encouraged, because passing averages are required for graduation.  Texas students now must pass a total of 15 STAAR end-of-course exams by the time they complete high school to receive a diploma.

HISD still had not received complete STAAR exam results from the Texas Education Agency as of Thursday morning, but plans are moving forward to bolster summer school offerings for students in need of help.  Under the plan approved Thursday, the district is offering teachers who are chosen to work with students in need of help on the STAAR and TAKS exams an increased pay rate of $50 an hour and bonuses ranging from $150 to $250 for each student who meets performance goals on the STAAR and TAKS retest in July. The maximum bonus payout per teacher is $10,000.

The money to pay for the program is coming from unspent funds in the district’s pool of money set aside for teacher performance pay.

Preliminary First-Year STAAR End-of-Course Exam Results


            Because the STAAR exams are in their first year of use, the Texas Education Agency is not using results from the 2011-2012 administration for accountability purposes.  This means that school ratings will not be based on this year’s scores and results are not being used to determine whether students are promoted to the next grade level.

            Scores on the STAAR End of Course exams taken by ninth-graders, however, will be used to determine their eventual eligibility for graduation.  The majority of HISD freshmen took end-of-course exams this spring in five subjects: English I reading, English I writing, Algebra I, biology, and world geography.  HISD is still awaiting full results for all students from the state, and the preliminary results listed below are still subject to change.  The preliminary results are as follows:

Reading: 59 percent passing

Writing:  47 percent passing

Algebra I: 79 percent passing

Biology: 84 percent passing

World Geography: 73 percent passing

            The number of HISD students who must retake each exam ranges from 6,100 students on the writing exam to 2,100 students in biology.

Other Preliminary STAAR Exam Results

            Students in grades 3 through 8 took STAAR exams for the first time this spring as well.  The Texas Education Agency has not yet determined the percentage of questions that each student must correctly answer in order to pass those exams.  Therefore, each exam’s results are being reported in terms of the average percent of questions answered correctly by students at each grade level and in each subject.  The average number of questions answered correctly on each exam is as follows.  It is important to note that these percentages DO NOT represent passing rates:

Grade 3 Reading: 63 percent; Math: 63 percent

Grade 3 (Spanish-language test takers) Reading: 60 percent; Math: 63 percent

Grade 4 Reading: 64 percent; Math: 59 percent

Grade 4 (Spanish-language test takers) Reading: 61 percent; Math: 65 percent; Writing: 61 percent

Grade 5 Reading: 65 percent; Math: 66 percent; Science: 73 percent

Grade 5 (Spanish-language test takers) Reading: 48 percent; Math 40 percent; Science: 50 percent

Grade 6 Reading: 65 percent; Math: 58 percent

Grade 7 Reading: 64 percent; Math: 46 percent; Writing: 60 percent;

Grade 8 Reading: 65 percent; Math: 52 percent; Science: 61 percent; Social Studies: 52 percent

TAKS Exam Results


            The percentage of HISD 10th-grade students passing each subject – English language arts, math, science, and social studies – increased compared to the 2010-2011 school year.  The percentage of 11th-grade students passing the math and science TAKS exams increased, while the social studies passing rate remained unchanged at 98 percent.  The 11th-grade passing rate in English language arts now stands at 90 percent, a 2-point decline.