Published on Tuesday, September 23, 2014 by Jesse Baxter
Scores on the STAAR exam for the 2013-2014 school year are some of the highest scores Bryan High and the district have ever achieved, with five out of six distinctions awarded for academic performance.
“The five distinctions are really huge for BHS,” Superintendent Thomas Wallis said. “After being an improvement required school last year with zero distinctions, to coming off the improvement required list to earning five distinctions is a great accomplishment.”
Earning five out of six distinctions places Bryan High in the top 11% of schools in Texas, in comparison, 48% of schools in Texas earned zero distinctions.
“When I saw our results I knew we met standard; I knew that we were going to be fine,” Principle Lane Buban said. “But the distinctions were the one thing that blew my mind.”
Administration cites the high quality of education for, helping students perform at maximum efficiency and for the overall scores.
“I feel the quality of teachers we have on campus is very high and, for the most part, we do an excellent job of educating students,” Buban said.
Another factor for the school’s and district’s high scores are how teachers interact with the students, making sure they completely grasp what they need to know for the tests.
“We are always looking for different interventions for kids, things that maybe are a little more creative than what they do in their classes everyday to see if that would help them do better on the test,” Associate principal Megan Jones said. “We try to be creative about what we can do to help, if what is going on in the classroom isn’t quite enough.”
In order to prepare for the STAAR exam, several programs were put into place to help achieve success campus wide.
“[Teachers] are actually looking at how students do on the district and unit tests that they take to see where they need to focus,” Buban said. “Because within each subject area there are student objectives and if a student is low in a certain objective, they are able to monitor that by each student, and go back to pinpoint where those deficiencies exist. Then teachers can target their instruction or go back and reteach certain students for that certain set of objectives.”
Another safeguard, Zeroes Aren’t Permissible (ZAP), while not initially put into place for the STAAR test, indirectly helps students prepare for the test.
“If I have a student that is missing an assignment or didn’t do an assignment, I can catch them and make them do that assignment which better prepares them for the STAAR test,” Buban said. “It keeps them from falling behind.”
With the transition from Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) to STAAR teachers had to change the nuances of what they were teaching students to better prepare them for the new test.
“I think a lot of focus was put on preparing students for writing, because the STAAR writing portion for end of courses is a lot different than it was for TAKS,” Jones said. “Teachers had to transition to teaching students how to write expository, literary, and persuasive from how to write the personal essay, which was required by TAKS.”
However, administrators emphasized that standardized tests weren’t as important as the day-to-day education students receive from attending school.
“We need to remember that a school, teacher, or student should not be considered a success or failure based on one test, on one day,” Wallis said. “BISD has always done great things and put children first, I wish lawmakers would realize all students do not come from the same backgrounds and don’t have the same experiences, therefore relying on a test to determine success is not children first.”
Wallis believes there are greater issues than solving multiple choice standardized test questions.
“School districts need to ensure that graduates are problem solvers,” Wallis said. “That they are people who can research and work collaboratively with others to solve problems and to graduate as 21st century learners. If schools will focus on these initiatives, scores will take care of themselves.”