District leaders search for answers to higher test scores

Worries over areas where Hays CISD lags in State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) scores led district leaders to advocate for ways to usher in improvements.

Discussion came as a result of a presentation given by Joy Philpott, director of assessment and accountability, which showed Hays CISD’s STAAR scores were “slightly below” the state’s average in several areas.

Philpott said the district’s drop in scores followed similar trends seen in the state. Hays CISD scored 70 percent across all subjects, which was five percent lower than the 75 percent state average.

Math and history in 3rd and 5th grade saw higher scores than what was experienced in the state, Philpott said.

 Overall, Hays CISD has a district ranking of “Met Standard” on the four criterions assessed by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). Blanco Vista and Pfluger Elementary Schools, along with Lehman High, received distinction honors by the state in several areas.

Willie Tenorio, Hays CISD trustee, District 2, said it was good to see celebrations in the data, but also worried about district elementary schools lagging behind on scores.

All but two campuses in the district received “Met Standard” assessments. Hemphill and Science Hall elementary schools were both designated as “Improvement Required” campuses, which triggered the district to begin the process of crafting Campus Improvement Plans over the summer.

Philpott said the district tracks progress across several areas beyond benchmark testing, which is “not an effective way to measure student growth.”

District leaders have implemented “Learning Walks,” where principals tour campuses and are able to share best practices. The district also shows examples of student work to educators and students to look at “what quality looks like”, Philpott said.

Holly Raymond, Hays CISD trustee at-large, said she appreciated an open house led by Barton Middle School principal Teresa Eubanks, which identified areas of improvement to parents. She said the meeting “zeroed in” and showed parents the importance of attendance to help improve state scores.

Lucio Calzada, Hays CISD assistant superintendent of secondary schools, said many principals will wait to share the “school’s report card” with parents, which is required by the state.

But he said he liked what Eubanks did, which he believes helps connect to parents how to improve achievement.

“It’s all hands on deck,” Calzada said. “For us to be excellent, it takes the whole team.”

District 1 Board Trustee Esperanza Orosco advocated for a district-wide, concrete writing plan that would encompass all grade levels.

Vanessa Petrea, at-large board trustee, also believed a district writing plan should be vertically aligned. Petrea also advocated for the plan to start in Kindergarten, as opposed to the 4th grade, where students are first tested in writing. Petrea said she wanted to see writing become a focus in the district, but was surprised by the district’s drop in writing from 2016.

“We’ve taken spelling out of our curriculum, and handwriting and cursive out of our curriculum,” Petrea said. “While that may work because of our digital age … it sends a message to the kids maybe writing isn’t important.”

Coming up with concrete goals that can be assessed over time is another solution Tenorio believed could help stem the issue. However, he also said the district is “tracking less” on the correlation between socioeconomics and test scores.

Tenorio said the pattern he’s seen is schools with lower incomes tend to have lower results, while higher incomes have much better results.

“There is some systemic improvements we need to make in elementary school campuses,” Tenorio said. “I want to see something that’s concrete enough for elementary schools to see progress happening this year.”


All subjects

  • 2016 score – 70%
  • 2017 score – 70%
  • 2017 state average – 75%


  • 2016 score – 70%
  • 2017 score – 69%
  • 2017 state average – 72%


  • 2016 score – 62%
  • 2017 score– 55%
  • 2017 state average  – 67%


  • 2016 score – 70%
  • 2017 score – 72%
  • 2017 state average  – 79%


  • 2016 score – 75%
  • 2017 score  – 75%
  • 2017 state average  – 79%

Social Studies

  • 2016 score – 74%
  • 2017 score  – 75%
  • 017 state average  – 77%

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