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Are Hays schools improving? District scores show uneven performance across the board

By Andy Sevilla

A recently presented state report illustrating Hays CISD’s academic performance reveals students are excelling in social studies, but falling below state averages in math, science and writing.

The Texas Academic Performance Report (TAPR) provides information on the performance of students on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) in each school and district in Texas and how student performance at school districts compare to their respective region and state. The report also tracks students continuing with post-secondary education.

“Hays CISD is ahead of the state in Social Studies. In the other areas, the district is statistically even with the state or a point or two below,” Tim Savoy, Hays CISD spokesperson told the Hays Free Press

As a whole, and at the phase-in satisfactory standard or above, Hays students’ STAAR performance fell below state averages in math, science and writing. The district tied the state average in reading and came out on top in social studies.

“There were significant budget cuts to education in 2011. At that time, Hays lost some positions — some support positions — and that school year, 2011-2012, was the first year of the STAAR Test,” Joy Philpott, Hays CISD director of assessment told the school board of the TAPR results. “So we were asked to do much, much more, and to implement more deeply, with less resources.”

And while 2011 budget cuts hurts all school districts in Texas, school board member Merideth Keller said that could no longer be used as an excuse.

“We talk about 2011 and how that was very difficult for us, but it was difficult for every school district in this state,” Keller said. “So if other people are able to bring up their averages, and other districts are able to improve over the state averages, we should too.”

Savoy said that the district continuously works to increase test scores compared to the state in all subject areas, and that during the course of the past several years of test data in general, “we have seen improvement.” 

The latest TAPR report shows test scores for the last two school years. The data reveals Hays CISD came behind the state average in reading, math, writing and science in the 2012-2013 school year. This past school year (2013-2014), the district came behind the state average in all of the same subjects, except for reading. In 2013-2014, the district tied the state average in reading. 

Hays CISD scored better than the state average in social studies in both years.

“We have got to hold folks accountable, because the kids are our future and these results are sad,” Sandra Bryant, school board member, said.

Dr. Lucio Calzado, who joined Hays CISD in January as the new assistant superintendent of secondary schools, told the board the district now needs to focus its efforts on what to do next.

“It’s not about, ‘look at these scores, let’s get them up,’” he said. “It’s about let’s create a plan and set goals, and let’s achieve these goals and get everybody on board.”

Calzado said he’s bringing to Hays years of experience in getting school districts’ academics improving, and has many ideas he’s ready to roll out.

The TAPR also revealed that student progress for those who failed the STAAR test last year is higher than the state averages, and drop out rates for Hays are lower than state averages. 

A higher percentage of Hays CISD students are also taking Advance Placement exams. 

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