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Parsing the TAKS at AISD

The Austin ISD TAKS scores mirror the state averages, for better and worse

By Michael King, Fri., June 4, 2004

In keeping with the statewide official euphoria, Austin ISD administrators welcomed the new Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills scores last week, announcing that "in every grade and every student group, Austin students improved their scores on the 2004 [TAKS] tests, compared to their peers' 2003 performance." In the "must pass" years of grades three and 11 – when the tests can mean the difference between promotion or graduation – 94% of third graders passed the required reading test, and 72% of 11th graders passed all tests taken, matching the statewide averages. "Austin students and teachers are meeting the TAKS challenge," said AISD Superintendent Pat Forgione. "We are proud of the progress they've made."

This was the second year for the TAKS, a test package derived from the state-mandated Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills curriculum, designed to cover more subjects and take in more students than the previous Texas Assessment of Academic Skills tests. Students were tested throughout the spring in subjects including reading (in the lower grades), English, math, science, and social science. Third graders must pass the reading test to qualify for promotion, and high school juniors must eventually pass all five tests (which can be retaken four times) to be able to graduate as seniors. This year, that means 1,009 AISD high school students must retake and pass one or more of the tests to be able to graduate in May of next year.

Though students overall made progress on the state-mandated tests, the scores for disadvantaged student groups still lag considerably behind. As a group, 88% of white students passed all the tests, but only 59% of Hispanic students and 50% of African-Americans passed all tests on first attempt – results also reflected for "economically disadvantaged" students, of whom only 52% passed all the tests. The district also compiles statistics for "limited English proficiency" students (24% passed all tests) and "special education" students (37% passed all tests).

The passing scores for single tests were higher, from 81% (math) to 96% (social studies) for all students, and from 60% to 90% for minority students. Forgione said that while scores overall are improved, work remains to be done at specific schools and with specific student groups, and he promised numerous intervention and support initiatives for students who did not pass the tests.

For more info about the AISD scores, see the district Web site at www.austin.isd.tenet.edu. Information about statewide TAKS results is available at www.tea.state.tx.us/press/taks04.html.

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