Preliminary TAKS test results are in for Stephenville schools and Dr. Joyce Anderson, director of testing, guidance and curriculum, is pleased with student performance.

“Grade 3 through 11 reading is at or above 88 percent and in most grades above 90 percent,” Anderson said. “Reading is a district wide strength.”

Test results in the category named as “all students” are good, she said. Historically, (and statewide) the district still needs improvement in the sub populations of Hispanics and the economically disadvantaged students, but those results are included in the “all students” category

Many of the Hispanic student sub population cross over into the economically disadvantaged group so the trends seen in the “two” groups just about mirror each other, she said.

The lowest scores in the Hispanic sub group occurred in grade 9 mathematics with 50 percent passing and in the economically disadvantaged sub group with 51 percent passing.

The lowest performing scores for the “all student” category were also in grade 9 mathematics at 70 percent passing Anderson said, but Stephenville students still out performed the state average of 60 percent passing.

Anderson said grade 9 mathematics is tough on students because they are tested over material previously taught in grade 8 along with the new algebra subject matter taught in grade nine. Teachers cannot review and reteach grade 8 skills and still have adequate time for teaching the new material in grade 9, she said.

“Teachers are challenged in teaching new material for the test and no time to review eighth grade skills,” Anderson said. The passing percentage climbs significantly for grade 10 with 79 percent passing with the state average at 63 percent.

“I’m happy with the gains we’re making from year to year especially in math,” she said.

A factor Anderson anticipates will help math scores in the future is the adoption of new textbooks in grades 6 through 12, which should help with curriculum alignment for each grade level.

“The new textbooks are correlated to the TAKS objectives as well as the state TEKS requirements for each grade level,” she said.

The only test students did not measure above the state average was in grade 11 social studies. But students just missed the mark by two percentage points with 92 percent passing compared to the state average of 94 percent. Again, Anderson said there is a lot of material students are expected to remember because they are only tested in the subject three times. Social studies tests occur in grade 8, 10 and 11 and cover all of American history as well as world history and world geography.

Anderson said she is not worried about the social studies grade 11 result because, “When you are dancing around the 90s and above then the differences (percentage points up or down but still in the 90s) are most likely within the particular group taking the test. When the scores are below the 90s curriculum or other issues need to be addressed.”

Anderson said the district’s science scores have improved a great deal probably because more emphasis had been placed on the subject in the lower grade levels. In grade 8, science scores are 13 points above the state average of 70 percent with a score of 83 percent.

She said teachers have been working hard to produce good results in science by holding science camps among other things. The score of 82 percent passing for fifth grade science was a disappointment she said but plans are in place to bring up fifth grade students. Fifth grade science students statewide scored 77 percent.

Anderson said Chamberlin Elementary School is receiving a new science lab, which will enable teachers to “teach science in the way it should be taught.”

Teacher professional development days for next year will also be devoted to math and science, she said.

Anderson said she feels if the legislators approve end-of-course tests for high school students that it will be better all the way around for everyone. She doesn’t like the thought of the school having to give every test but feels it will benefit students in the sense that they won’t have to remember information for long periods of time before they are tested.

Also, she said failing one test will not be a ‘make or break’ situation for the student because all of the tests would be averaged together for a 70 percent passing percentage.

The test would be like taking a final exam, she said, and would count towards the overall course grade but how heavily it would be weighted is unknown. She said talk has been anywhere from 15 to 25 percent.

The problem she said is the TAKS test will have to be phased out over a period of time and the program if passed would not be fully implemented until the year 2013 — those in higher grades would still be faced with taking the TAKS tests.