One year into state takeover of Houston schools, STAAR scores show improvement

Schools that underwent an overhaul under the new superintendent saw the most advances.

By Sarah AschJune 18, 2024 1:07 pm,

The Houston Independent School District is one year into a controversial state takeover, after the state said the district was failing students – especially students of color – and needed corrective action.

One big way those outcomes were being measured was through the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, the annual standardized test designed to assess student progress. Meanwhile, those at the district opposed to the takeover argued that outcomes were improving under a new plan and that they needed more time.

So after one year of the takeover, how did HISD students do on the STAAR?

Nusaiba Mizan, who covers education for the Houston Chronicle, said the test score data that has already been released shows improvement.

“The district saw a greater percentage of students meeting grade level on exams compared to last year,” she said. “And one way to contextualize this is overall, Texas students saw some drops in the percentage of students meeting grade level. But in terms of year-to-year change and depending on the exam, the district saw some upward movement scores that the state did not experience.”

Specifically, campuses that were overhauled through state-appointed superintendent Mike Miles’ New Education System had the biggest increase in scores on the STAAR.

“Under Miles’ leadership, overhauled schools have a different instructional model, and they have daily quizzes called Demonstrations of Learning,” Mizan said. “There are also other changes as well, such as, they have repurposed libraries called ‘team centers’ where students might work on advanced content.”

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Certain grade levels and subjects had particularly big improvements, Mizan said.

“There was a relatively larger percentage point gain in fourth and sixth grade reading, and in third grade math,” she said. “The district actually passed in third grade math at rates higher than the state, albeit at 1 percentage point more.”

These scores come after a tumultuous few years for standardized testing, which was largely disrupted by the pandemic.

“Since the pandemic hit, in test scores there has been some improvement. However, math continues to largely lag behind pre-pandemic student performance,” Mizan said. “And that’s not unique to HISD. The state is seeing this, too. And the state’s Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath even pointed that out in the news release for statewide test scores.”

Miles said if test results continue to improve, it could spell the end of the state takeover “sooner rather than later.” However, he cautioned that one year of data does not a trend make.

“One thing to note is that the district is very focused on students who meet grade level. But the students who meet grade level are a step above the students who approach grade level. And that is the passing threshold as well,” Mizan said. “So when the district discusses its STAAR results, it is talking about students who met or mastered grade level, which are at the higher thresholds in student performance versus passing rates.

“One takeaway that a couple of experts have pointed out is this is one set of data. And so we’ll see down the road whether this is a trend in our data or not.”

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