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MISSION—School districts across the state have had difficulty meeting Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) standards, especially with the most recent changes in 2011.

With 56 percent of schools in Texas missing AYP for the 2011-2012 school year, according to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), schools are trying to better equip their campuses for the Texas assessment exam that will require a 100 percent passing rate in 2013. The required passing rate for 2011-12 was 87 percent for English Language Arts and Reading (ELA), and 83 percent in Mathematics.

The State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) is the newest version of the state’s standardized testing that was implemented in the 2011- 2012 school year. These assessment exams are used by the state, governed by federal programming from the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and are used to gauge AYP.

The state is using professional service providers who were former principals, superintendents or administrators to assist campuses with academic performance, community engagement, increased learning time, teacher quality and leadership.

Bertha Mejia, a professional service provider who works out of Region 13 (Austin) Education Service Center, has assisted school districts from Brownsville to Zapata. She is currently assisting Mission Consolidated School District to work with campuses that failed to meet AYP, which includes Kenneth White Jr. High School. The Mission School Board approved a possible restructuring plan for the campus earlier this month.

Mejia’s experience with local districts and as an exemplary principal has allowed her to see the Texas Assessment exams change over the years.

“Basically when comparing TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) and STAAR, it is using the Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning, which includes levels like recalling, knowledge, analyzing and synthesis.” Mejia said.

“The TAKS was based mainly on recalling and knowledge…while the STAAR looks at analyzing and synthesizing, what is called rigor.”

Through the STAAR program, grade levels from third to eighth grade are required to take STAAR exams, while ninth through 12th grade take End of Course Assessments. Both sets of exams are used in the decision of advancing to the next grade level and graduating.

The STAAR exams test skills in reading, mathematics, science, social studies and only fourth and seventh graders are required to take writing STAAR examinations.

Neighboring districts La Joya ISD and Sharyland ISD, each had one middle school that met AYP. La Joya ISD had a total of 14 campuses meet AYP out of 35 schools, Sharyland ISD had nine out of 12 schools and MCISD had four out of 20 schools meet AYP. The majority of the campuses that passed in each district were elementary schools.

Kenneth White Jr. High fell short of last year’s required passing rate with 82 percent passing ELA and 76 passing Mathematics.

“When we first started with NCLB the (required passing) rate was at 50 percent,” Mejia said. “When students miss AYP…that doesn’t necessarily mean the kids are doing really bad, that means standards are going up.”

When asked about what contributed to students missing AYP scores, Mejia explained it is a combination of factors, including language, a child's abilities and environment.

Low scores have also been attributed to economically disadvantaged areas, however, the La Joya ISD campus Dr. Javier Saenz Middle School (JSMS) met AYP scores and is in one of the most economically disadvantaged areas in the Rio Grande Valley. The campus is located just west of Tom Gill Road on Mile 7 Road, in Peñitas.

The Grade-Level Retention in Texas Public Schools reports for 2009- 2010 was conducted by the Division of Research and Analysis Department of Assessment and Accountability under the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and released in November 2011.

These report findings show that students in all grade levels who are economically disadvantaged tend to have a higher retention rate than students who are not economically disadvantaged.

While elementary and secondary grade levels of English as a Second Language students have shown a high retention rate, learners with a limited English proficiency have seen a steady drop in percentage since 2000.

“It all depends on the child and how motivated they are. Spanish was my first language, I had to learn English and there were no bilingual programs while I was in school,” Mejia said. “I don't think in terms of 'they can't speak the language so they missed AYP'...if the teacher has high expectations and the student wants it, they will succeed.”

STAAR research is still in the early stages due the limited time of its release.

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