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Chapter 2
Educational Service Delivery

This chapter reviews the educational service delivery system of Venus Independent School District (VISD) in the following sections:

  1. Student Performance
  2. Instructional Resources
  3. Gifted and Talented Education
  4. Compensatory Education
  5. Special Education
  6. Bilingual/English as a Second Language Education
  7. Career and Technology Education
  8. Library/Media Services
  9. Student Discipline and Alternative Education Programs
  10. Computer Technology


A. STUDENT PERFORMANCE

TAAS performance determined a district’s accountability ratings until the end of 2001-02. TAAS was administered in grades 3-8 and 10 in reading and mathematics. Students in grades 4, 8 and 10 were also assessed in writing and grade 8 students were assessed in social studies and science. An exit-level examination was given in grade 10. In addition to completing all other high school graduation requirements, students must pass this exit-level exam to graduate. Students in special education programs may be exempt from the exit-level exam or take the State-Developed Alternative Assessment (SDAA).

In 2002-03, the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) replaced the TAAS. The new assessment is more rigorous than the TAAS and will be administered in grades 3 through 11. Math will be assessed in grades 3 to 11. Reading will be assessed in grades 3 to 9 and English Language Arts in grades 10 and 11. Writing will be assessed in grades 4 and 7; social studies in grades 8, 10 and 11; and science in grades 5, 10 and 11. The exit-level examination was administered in grade 11, but will not affect the graduation of high school students until the 2003-04 school year. The spring and summer of 2003 will produce the first set of performance reports for the TAKS assessments and the AEIS reports will include this new data.

The VISD coordinator of Curriculum and Special Programs told the review team that even though TAKS will be implemented during 2002-03, districts will retain the TAAS accountability ratings from the previous 2001-02 school year. Therefore, VISD will be rated Acceptable during the 2002-03 school year. The elementary and middle school campuses will continue to be rated as Acceptable and the high school campus will be rated as Recognized.

The coordinator of Curriculum and Special Programs provided information on grade 3 students who took the reading TAKS assessment in 2003. The results of this test show that 86 students out of 99 passed the TAKS reading assessment, which constitutes 87 percent of the class. Of the remaining 13 students, four were absent, one became ill during the test administration and eight did not meet the passing standard, which has been set at 55 percent mastery for 2002-03. All of these students will have additional opportunities to take the TAKS reading assessment during spring and summer 2003. The TAAS passing standard was set at 70 percent mastery, which will also become the TAKS passing standard in 2004-05.

One of the ways that VISD addresses student performance issues is through the district improvement plan (DIP). According to goal number one of the DIP “all student groups taking the state reading, writing and math tests will meet or exceed the state standard of 80 percent passing by the year 2004 to achieve a district rating of Recognized and the standard of “90 percent passing for an Exemplary rating by the year 2005.” The strategies listed under goal number one in the district and campus improvement plans (CIP) address the analysis of 2002 TAAS data to determine strengths and weaknesses for all students in reading, writing, math, social studies and science, with a focus on Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) objectives with mastery below 80 percent on the 2002 TAAS test.

Exhibit 2-10 compares 2002-03 TAKS scores for grades 3 through 11 with the state average. This is the first year the new TAKS testing instrument has been in place. Students did well in grades 5,8, and 9 math and in grade 9 reading. However, the district also has other areas needing improvement where large gaps in scores appear compared to the state average, in particular, grade 4 writing, grade 6 reading, grade 7 writing, grade 8 social studies and grade 10 English and math.

The Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) committee is responsible for making the appropriate assessment recommendations for every student who receives special education services.

Exhibit 2-10
Percentage of Students Passing TAKS
VISD and State
2002-03
  Reading Math Writing Science Social Studies English
Grade Level* 2002-03 2002-03 2002-03 2002-03 2002-03 2002-03
Grade 3            
VISD 86% 86%        
State 89% 90%        
Grade 4            
VISD 77% 82% 66%      
State 86% 88% 86%      
Grade 5            
VISD 75% 89%   69%    
State 80% 86%   74%    
Grade 6            
VISD 69% 72%        
State 86% 74%        
Grade 7            
VISD 79% 60% 68%      
State 88% 73% 85%      
Grade 8            
VISD 79% 75%     74%  
State 88% 72%     93%  
Grade 9            
VISD 87% 71%        
State 82% 63%        
Grade 10            
VISD   56%   62% 79% 53%
State   71%   69% 86% 72%
Grade 11            
VISD   66%   58% 86% 60%
State   68%   67% 90% 69%
Source: VISD, coordinator of Curriculum and Special Programs.
Note: Shaded areas show where tests are not administered at particular grade levels.

FINDING

VISD retention rates in grades 6, 7 and 8 are significantly higher than the state averages and the averages of selected peer districts. The VISD middle school principal and teachers interviewed attribute the high retention rate for grade 6 to a number of factors. Many students entering middle school have difficulty meeting higher academic standards. During the shift from elementary to a middle school, teaching methods become faster paced. Students take cumulative and comprehensive tests or semester tests that require retention of a larger volume of material than in grade 5. Also, as students become involved in competitive extracurricular activities, they have to manage their time more effectively.

VISD board policy states “promotion is based on overall average of 70 on a scale of 100 based on course-level, grade-level standards for all subject areas.” The district retains students who fail English, reading, math, science and social studies if they do not meet the promotion criteria. For all students at risk of failing, the middle school principal implemented an extended-day tutorial program two afternoons a week for all core subjects and the computer lab. The district provides transportation for all students who need to attend. In addition, every student who does not pass English and/or math is placed in a double block class schedule for English, math or both courses.

The middle school Campus Improvement Plan (CIP) lists several strategies for helping students succeed, including benchmark tests given to identify areas of weakness, TEKS reading skills taught across the curriculum, practice TAKS. However, TAKS scores for reading in grade six; 69 percent, show a 17 percentage point gap compared to the state average of 86 percent.

In addition, the CIP does not include specific strategies for grade 6 teachers to use to help grade 5 students transition from elementary to middle school. The district does not have a coordinated approach that uses all available resources to allow teachers in grades 5 and 6 help students who need to catch up with their peers.

Exhibit 2-11 shows VISD’s overall retention rates for 2001-02 compared with its peer districts and the state. Grades 6, 7 and 8 all have retention rates higher than those of the state average; grade 6’s retention rate is 6.2 percentage points higher than the state, grade 7’s is 2.5 percentage points higher and grade 8’s is 3.8 percentage points higher. In addition, VISD has the second-highest overall retention rates among its peer districts. Retention rates for 2002-03 were unavailable during the review teams onsite work. Studies show that children who fall behind by one or more grades are at a higher risk of dropping out of school.

Exhibit 2-11
Retention Rates by Grade*
VISD, Peer Districts and State
2001-02
Grade
Level
Dublin Godley Grandview Rio Vista Venus State Average
1 19.0% 0.0% 7.0% 5.1% 3.3% 5.8%
2 14.1% 0.0% 0.0% 1.9% 4.8% 3.5%
3 3.5% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 3.1% 2.5%
4 2.4% 0.0% 3.1% 0.0% 3.7% 1.4%
5 1.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.8%
6 4.8% 1.2% 1.2% 0.0% 7.7% 1.5%
7 0.0% 1.6% 1.6% 2.9% 5.0% 2.5%
8 1.1% 0.0% 0.0% 1.5% 5.7% 1.9%
Source: TEA, AEIS, 2001-02.
*Does not include Special Education students.

Ingram ISD has developed a set of promotion competencies for grades K through 12. All students must exhibit these competencies prior to promotion to the next grade level. This set of competencies provides clear guidelines to teachers regarding what students need to know when they complete each grade, and also helps teachers and administrators make promotion and retention decisions. These competencies are included in the district and campus improvement plans along with the budgeted funds allocated for their implementation.

Donna ISD established a broad-based committee including elementary and secondary administrators and reduced the number of students not promoted. The strategies include preparing students and staff for the transition from elementary to middle school and from middle to high school, a schedule for vertical meetings between elementary-middle and middle-high school teachers as well as professional development.

Recommendation 9:

Develop an instructional plan to reduce student retention rates and help promote more students.

The plan should consider both the short- and long-term effects of academic failure that result in retention and provide periodic assessment and the implementation of elementary to middle school strategies, starting in grade 5. For example, grade 5 teachers should teach organizational and time management skills, gradually increase student accountability through the year, raise expectations regarding late or redone work or extra credit and conduct cumulative and comprehensive tests. An instructional plan for students at risk of academic failure in middle school should provide both grade 5 and middle school teachers with a resource that targets those students specific needs.

IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINE

1. The coordinator of Curriculum and Special Programs forms a committee with teachers for grades 5 and 6 and their principals to review successful strategies for preparing elementary school students to middle school. September 2003
2. The committee develops a plan with specific strategies aimed at students at-risk-of academic failure in middle school. October 2003
3. The coordinator of Curriculum and Special Programs presents the plan to the superintendent for approval. November 2003
4. The coordinator of Curriculum and Special Programs provides staff development and training to district staff to use the strategies. November 2003 Ongoing
5. Principals monitor the implementation plan and the progress of students identified as being at risk of academic failure in middle school. December 2003 Ongoing

FISCAL IMPACT

This recommendation can be implemented with existing resources.

FINDING

The district has the lowest percentage of students taking college entrance examinations among its peer districts. VISD’s percent of students taking college entrance exams is nearly 15 percentage points below the state average. Exhibit 2-12 shows that VISD students have the lowest participation rate in the Academic College Test (ACT) and Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) among its peer districts, the region and state. In VISD, 48.3 percent of students take the SAT and ACT which is 14.6 percentage points lower than the state average of 62.9 percent and 17.1 percentage points lower that the region average of 65.4 percent. The VISD peer districts range from 56.7 percent to 76 percent of students taking the SAT and ACT exams.

Exhibit 2-12
College Entrance Examination Scores
VISD, Peer Districts, Region and the State
2001-02
  Percentage of Students Taking Examinations Percentage of Students Meeting the Criterion Average SAT Score Average ACT Score
Dublin 66.7% 23.7% 926 19.3
Godley 56.7% 20.6% 926 20.4
Grandview 64.0% 21.9% 1,010 21.8
Rio Vista 76.0% 26.3% 957 23.2
Venus 48.3% 17.9% 1,032 19.5
Region 11 65.4% 32.4% 1,020 21.1
State 62.9% 26.9% 987 20.2
Source: TEA, AEIS, 2001-02.

TEA set the scores of 21 on the ACT and 1110 on the SAT as the minimum criterion for student scores acknowledged in a district’s accountability rating. VISD students in the class of 2002 averaged a score of 19.5 on the ACT below the state average of 20.2, and 1.60 percentage points below the 21.1 percent regional average. VISD’s average ACT scores rank second lowest among its peer districts. The average SAT score of VISD is 1032, which is 45 points higher than the state average score of 987 and 12 points higher that the region average score of 1020. VISD’s SAT scores are also the highest among its peer districts. A district’s SAT or ACT score relates to the percentage of students taking either test. In general, the higher the percentage of students taking the examinations, the lower the scores will be. Only 17.9 percent of students who took the tests met the criterion in 2002.

The ACT includes questions covering English, mathematics, reading and science reasoning, with scores ranging from 1 to 36 on each component. The ACT composite score is the average of the four component scores. The SAT includes a verbal and a mathematics component. Scores range from 200 to 800 for each test component. The combined total is the reported score and ranges up to a maximum of 1600.

The district’s high school addresses this issue in its 2002-03 campus improvement plan: “Venus High School will emphasize preparation for post-secondary education.” The strategy states, “Increase the number of students taking the college entrance exams by offering Peterson’s SAT Preparation course to juniors and/or seniors and Princeton Review ACT materials in regular junior and senior English class.” The high school improvement plan also includes a strategy to offer the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) to all sophomores and juniors free of charge to give students the experience of test-taking, as well as a score that can be used as a guide for improvement. By waiving the PSAT test fees, VISD makes it possible for all students to participate. However, the district has not alerted students and parents concerning the importance of the SAT and ACT exams in the post-secondary education and career opportunities for students graduating from high school.

Some Texas districts offer mini-camps for students and sessions involving teachers and parents to prepare students for college admission, including sessions for test-taking skills improvement and for preparation for the ACT/SAT. These programs give students the experience of taking tests, as well as a score that can be used as a guide for improvement when they are in high school. Some districts have also aligned their curriculum with the SAT.

Recommendation 10:

Increase the number of students taking the SAT and the ACT.

Although the high school’s CIP strategies take a step in the right direction, the district should also use multiple strategies to enhance student and parent awareness of the ACT and SAT exams importance to post-secondary education and career opportunities and of available instructional and financial resources. As part of a broader plan to prepare students for post-secondary education and career opportunities, VISD should start this awareness process in middle school and continue it throughout high school.

IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINE

1. The coordinator of Curriculum and Special Programs, the high school principal and the counselor obtain information from several districts that have successfully increased student participation in college entrance examinations. October 2003
2. The coordinator of Curriculum and Special Programs forms a committee with the middle school and high school principals and counselors to develop a plan for increasing parent and student awareness of the importance of ACT and SAT participation and presents the plan to the superintendent for approval. November 2003
3. The middle school and high school principals and counselors implement the plan to increase parent and student awareness of the importance of ACT and SAT exams. December 2003 Ongoing
4. The principals and counselors monitor student participation in the ACT and SAT exams. May 2004
5. The coordinator of Curriculum and Special Programs meets with the committee to evaluate the effectiveness of the strategies and makes any changes that seem useful and prepares a report for the superintendent. June 2004

FISCAL IMPACT

This recommendation can be implemented with existing resources.