LHISD out-performs State in spring STAAR results

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By Dana Delgado

The latest Liberty Hill Independent School District STAAR results have Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction, and Accountability Toni Hicks singing what is becoming a familiar celebratory song.

“We are very proud of our teachers, leadership, students, and parents for this academic achievement,” said Hicks. “We have reason to celebrate but we’re not satisfied. Our bar is much higher than the state standard.”

Results released by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) recently show that LHISD made marked gains in some 2017-2018 testing areas while outperforming the region as well as the state in every category and grade level.

Hicks said that she was particularly pleased with the progress made in reading which was a major focus for the district during the last academic year. TEA reports indicate that three LHISD grade levels had an increase in the percent of students passing including third grade (79 to 88 percent), fourth grade (79 to 81 percent), and seventh grade (82 to 85 percent).

Showing slight declines in the percent of students passing the STAAR Reading were fifth grade (91 to 89 percent), sixth grade (82 to 81 percent), eighth grade (95 to 92 percent), English I (82 to 77 percent) and English II (82 to 78 percent). All LHISD reading results, however, significantly towered over region and state results with double-digit margins in nearly all grade levels in the percent of students at passing.

“We are closing the gap,” Hicks said. “What hurt us were the high school reading and writing scores.”

Hicks said the district will likely look to use an alternative assessment for reading and writing, an option available under TEA. Other school districts including Georgetown ISD opted this past school year to use the alternative assessment, but according to Hicks, LHISD still needs to develop a process for implementation.

At the elementary level, teachers underwent professional development in the summer of 2017, which targeted ongoing assessment of skills and the implementation of the district developed Panther Curriculum, a highly prescriptive plan for teachers to follow week-by-week over the school year. In a cooperative effort with the Liberty Hill Public Library, the LHHS is maintaining a recommended reading list on its district website to encourage reading.

Math was another area in which the district distinguished itself on the state mandated assessment.

“We are always solid in this area,” said Hicks as she gleaned the results. “We are right there in comparison with similar districts and have improved in all grades over the last three years.”

Most notably was sixth grade, which saw a 23 percent gain in students at passing the STAAR Math. Across the district, scores hovered at or above a 90 percent students at passing this past academic year.

In the STAAR Science, LHISD remained relatively flat for the third straight year but hovered between 80-93 percent at passing, slightly above the state and region averages but just below some area schools similar to the district’s demographics.

In STAAR History, the district neared perfection in high school U.S. History with 98 percent at passing while the eighth grade, targeted last year by school officials, jumped from 62 percent at passing in 2016-17 to 83 percent at passing this past academic year.

With no evidence of improvement and in light of a third straight year of decline, Hicks was particularly distressed by the district’s performance in the area of writing; although, LHISD results were even at 63 percent at passing with the region and just above the state’s 61 percent in fourth grade and held a 13 percent advantage over the state and region with an 81 percent at passing in seventh grade in the STAAR Writing.

“The whole state declined, but we were competitive with neighboring school districts,” explained Hicks as she shifted discussion to the district’s plan of attack including having teachers learn the scoring process of students’ writing samples.

At the high school level, LHISD will be launching a specialized writing intervention for high school students needing additional assistance to enhance skills and boost scores.

“We are projecting a great year,” said Hicks. “Leadership and staff are so incredibly positive. We are doing everything possible to create a very supportive environment.”

A comprehensive and more in depth accountability report is scheduled to be released by TEA in August.

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