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March 25th, 2008
SMCISD Eighth Graders Sweep the TAKS Tests

By Joy Harris Philpott

On March 25, 2008, San Marcos CISD released preliminary scores for the initial administration of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) reading tests for grades 3, 5, and 8. Students took these tests on March 5, 2008.

Eighth-grade scores were the strongest they have been since administration of TAKS tests began. Ninety-two percent (92%) of eighth graders district-wide met the standard on the test. This is a four percent jump over the previous year’s score of 88% and a ten percent growth since 2005. Fifty percent of eighth grade students earned “Commended” scores of 2400 or higher on their reading TAKS test.

“We’re proud of our students and of our teachers,” said Dr. Patty Shafer, SMCISD Superintendent of Schools. “Our strong dedication to rigorous academic instruction in literacy is evident in these scores, and we commend the hard work that is behind the achievement.”

Third and fifth grade scores were also strong. District-wide, 84% of third grade students and 78% of fifth grade students met standard on the exam.

Those students who did not meet standard on the tests will have two more opportunities to meet the standard. Between now and then, students and teachers are working hard to improve students’ skills.

“Every child receives support in small instructional settings with a 10:1 or smaller student-to-teacher ratio,” reports Yolanda Almendarez, SMCISD Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning. “Past experience shows that this intensive instruction increases student confidence and success.”

The next opportunity for students in 3, 5, and 8 to meet standard on the Reading TAKS test comes on April 30, 2008.

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0 thoughts on “SMCISD Eighth Graders Sweep the TAKS Tests

  1. Congratulations to the students, their parents, their teachers and administrators at SMCISD for this accomplishment and for your continued commitment to higher standards of education within our community.

  2. One of the recurring themes I have heard since coming to town is that if you have kids, you should move into one of the surrounding areas because the schools are better. I have also heard that this is a remnant of how things ‘used’ to be and that SMCISD has greatly improved. I am glad to see some quantifiable evidence that SMCISD is doing good things. Congratulations.

  3. It would be interesting to see the 9th – 12th grade scores, as well as those for surrounding areas and it would be interesting to see the scores for white and non-white students.

    My recollection, from the last time I saw the scores, was that they fell off significantly in the higher grades and for Hispanic students. I also recall seeing that there were very few bilingual teachers, relative to some of the other districts, like Wimberley.

    If we are genuinely improving, that is awesome. I would just like to see a more complete picture.

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  5. Has anyone thought that just maybe, over the course of the past few years teachers and students have merely learned how to “teach the test,” and/or “beat the test?” Standardized tests have a flaw, that flaw being that they are beatable without necessarily learning the full spectrum of what is being tested. My guess is that the teachers are doing a fantastic job, and the students are as well, at learning how to deal with this system while still managing to teach and learn about things that won’t find their way onto the TAKS tests.

    This is not to take away from the students who obviously have done a fabulous job this year. And congrats to the school district for demanding such standards.

    What happens to the students who don’t pass the test on the third time? Drop a grade? Kick them out of school? Just curiouso…

  6. It is interesting that in the past few days a report has begun to circulate, talking about the horrible (50%) graduation rates that we see nationally.

    I went to the source of the data and found a tool to look up graduation rates anywhere.

    I found the following graduation rates for San Marcos:

    1995 49.5
    1996 48.5
    1997 67.4
    1998 80.5
    1999 71.4
    2000 83.0
    2001 68.0
    2002 65.4
    2003 61.4
    2004 66.9

    and Wimberley:

    1995 78.0
    1996 80.4
    1997 87.5
    1998 64.7
    1999 79.0
    2000 95.5
    2001 89.4
    2002 97.4
    2003 95.3
    2004 95.4

    Having come from a school district that averaged 92% over the same 10 years (and I’d bet any amount of money that it has been that way since before I graduated, in 1989), I can tell you that they are out there and they are the result of residents who demand performance and results for their tax dollars. I can also tell you that they fuel economic growth.

    Are our schools getting better? It sure looks that way. Are they as good as they ought to be? You tell me.

  7. Graduation, testing scores, you name it – all of those numbers can be very misleading. I don’t speak from experience in San Marcos schools, but I do know for a fact that a low graduation rate isn’t an indictment of the school. Sometimes it has more to do with the socioeconomic situation of the student body.

    Good teaching cannot change environmental conditions at home. It cannot change poverty issues. Good curriculum is not a panacea for the world’s ills.

    I would bet you dollars to donuts (whatever that means) that in schools with graduation levels above 95%, the social structure of the surrounding area is much different.

  8. That just means there is more work to do. I agree that the issues extend beyond the classroom. That does not mean that we should not strive for more and it does not mean the schools are as good as they could be. I’ve seen reports that indicate a pitiful level of staffing allocated to at risk students.

    You say that the graduation rate can be tied to the socioeconomic situation of the student body. I say the socioeconomic situation of the student body can be tied to the graduation rate. If more of these kids went on to college, more of their children would be better off.

    Those of us who have, in this case education and opportunity, owe a great deal more to those who have not.

  9. Ted,
    You are right that the opportunity we have with the university is huge, but there are a lot of students that aren’t ready or don’t have the financial resources for a four year school coming out of high school here. I would love to see Hays Co. buy into the ACC system and get a campus in either San Marcos or Kyle. I think having that stepping stone for students that don’t want jump right into university would help up the number of student that continue on to college (which is substantially lower than the graduation rate) The school system also doesn’t entice many professors to send their children to SMISD. I don’t know the exact numbers, but I’ve heard 50% send their children elsewhere or live elsewhere to get into better schools. From what I’ve seen, I’d believe it. That’s really the number that worries me. We have a great public university, but much of the faculty and staff live elsewhere, because the public schools are not up to par. That disparity further isolates both the town and the university.

  10. I agree with the comments about isolation of the town and the university and I wonder how much that isolation influences how the locals feel about college in general. I also wonder how much things could change, if there was a more positive relationship between the two.

    I’m betting the change could be significant and I’m actually working on a program to get some synergy between the university and the city, including scholarships for local students to attend Texas State.

    It would be great to create greater ties between the two, so that more of the locals see the university as a viable and desirable path for them to take.

    At the moment, the program is in its infancy and I’m spread pretty thin, but I really hope to have things moving along by the start of the fall semester.

  11. Along those lines, NSF has recently funded a program called “Project Flowing Waters” which in return for supporting a few (five-ish) PhD students in Biology and Geography, they will work with 6-12th grade science teachers 10-15 hours per week, exposing both the teachers and students to cutting edge scientific research. My understanding is that it’s a 5 year program that should start up in the fall.

    Town and gown isolation issues are not something at all unique to San Marcos and Texas State. Hopefully some of this effort can result in a local reduction in isolation and conflict.

  12. My recollection is ACC never committed to build a campus in SM or Kyle. Let’s look at all our options before agreeing to be in the ACC district. Once you agree to be in there’s no way to get out. As for socioeconomic conditions, no doubt they’re bad here. I’ve had these discussions for years now and it always comes back to jobs. Based on my horribly flawed un-scientific asking around I believe a big percent of the better-educated higher wage earning parents do find a way to get their kids out of SMISD. (In defense of those parents, SMISD doesn’t have a “marketing effort” to attract them. Stated another way, no one asks those parents to consider SMISD.) Ultimately, only shear numbers will tip the scales to where the less “disadvantaged” make up a the majority of the student population. San Marcos MUST compete to attract more and better employers or watch those employers be courted away by our neighbors using their “4B” status and their war-chest of tax incentives. Our strength is that we’re a real city with an existing downtown, a personality and the University. Sadly we have a reputation as difficult to work with and an expensive place to develop. Combine that with a poor school system and we tend to get passed over.

  13. I didn’t think that there had even been any serious discussions with ACC. I would like to see it happen. Yes we would need to evaluate what other options there might be, but ACC is established and growing. Maybe the San Antonio area community college would be a viable alternative, but I know nothing about them. I think that given the large gap between the local school system and the university, having an intermediate step/alternative might encourage more students to continue on.

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