Earlier this year, the 2020-21 Texas Academic Performance Report (TAPR) results showed that Spring Branch ISD students turned in strong performances in multiple categories, especially when compared to state and regional student scores.
In fact, SBISD students’ combined STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) performance in every subject tested exceeded that of their peers across the state and region at all three performance levels.
STAAR is a series of standardized tests used in Texas primary and secondary schools to measure students’ achievements in knowledge learned in each grade level. The three performance level standards are “approaches grade level or above,” “meets grade level or above,” and “masters grade level.”
In addition, Spring Branch students’ combined STAAR performance exceeded state and regional student performance in all subjects at all three performance levels. Plus, the district’s performance on end-of-course work surpassed the state and region in all subjects at the “masters grade level” and exceeded state and region in four of five subjects tested at the “approaches” and “meets grade level.”
When 2020-21 performance is compared to that from 2019, SBISD students’ gains were greater and their declining numbers were smaller at every performance level compared to that in the state and region, according to Dr. Keith Haffey, SBISD Executive Director of Assessment and Compliance. This includes four of five STAAR tested subjects, every end-of-course test, every subject for English learners in bilingual and English as a second language programs and four of five subjects for economically disadvantaged students.
Haffey notes that a newly redesigned STAAR English Language Arts and Reading testing program is being introduced during the 2022-23 academic year. It will assess combined reading and writing ability in grades three through eight. Educators will also concentrate on narrowing gaps between economically disadvantaged students and non-economically disadvantaged students, including English learning students.
“Overall, these successes from 2020-21 are the result of solid district leadership and the dedicated performance of campus teachers and staff and, especially, students and their parents,” Haffey says. “And it’s important that we view 2020-21 TAPR data within the context of what happened in 2020—the pandemic,” Haffey explains. “All standards for evaluating students remained the same even while SBISD leadership, students, teachers and parents faced enormous challenges in coping with the pandemic.”
Suddenly, after spring break 2020, instruction formats changed, shifting to remote learning rather than in-person learning. For the 2021-22 school year, Spring Branch schools implemented a “family choice” approach that allowed families to decide what learning model was right for them. That year began with about 40 percent remote and 60 percent in-person learning and ended with just 20 percent remote and 80 percent in-person learning. This year all instruction is in-person.
“Operating two learning models was challenging, so we are extremely proud of our students excelling in a most difficult environment,” adds Dr. Kristin Craft, Associate Superintendent for Academics.
When it came to graduation rate performance, Spring Branch ISD students also excelled. The four-year graduation rate of the Class of 2020 increased, and the dropout rate declined when compared to Class of 2019. In addition, the six-year graduation rate for the district was the highest and the dropout rate was the lowest in the last three years.
Haffey says the district will continue its goals of improving four-year graduation rates and decreasing dropout rates, especially among economically disadvantaged students and English learners.
In evaluating college readiness indicators, the district scored high, too. District students outperformed the state and region in advanced dual credit course completion and scoring at or above criterion on AP/IB, ACT and SAT performance. In addition, district students’ average ACT and SAT scores were higher than students in the state and region. Graduates also outperformed the state and region for students meeting the Texas Success Initiative (TSI) criteria in English language arts and math.
Haffey notes that improvement areas will include increasing the percentage of graduates earning College, Career and Military Ready (CCMR) status. This includes improving advanced dual credit course success of economically disadvantaged students and English learners and narrowing the gaps in student performance on college pathway assessments and meeting TSI levels. He adds the district will continue to monitor the percentage of students taking AP and IB tests.
Dr. Jennifer Blaine, Superintendent of Schools, reflects on the past year by noting, “We had an intense focus on bringing clarity back to the system, especially in reading and math.”
In math, Blaine says teachers focused on increasing comprehension and students’ ability to move ahead to higher math levels. Teachers’ involvement in state mandated reading academies, “Aligns perfectly with our curriculum and professional development models. What’s more, half of our teachers are near completion of the year-long academy work this year. The remainder of SBISD teachers designated for this training will meet this House Bill 3 requirement next school year.
“Going forward, we will concentrate on aligning our time, money and people resources. We’re heading in the right direction with our emphasis on literacy and math; the data are trending up,” she says. “All of this data is very exciting so far. I want to thank the board for allocating the right resources, and I want to commend our staff and teachers who’ve worked hard to make sure our students are positioned in the best way possible.”
Craft adds, “We are going to stay the course while ensuring that we focus on continuous improvement in all subject areas. We are committed to collaborative teams and professional learning communities.
“Our approach is to work in collaborative teams with a collective responsibility for student learning, to implement a viable curriculum unit by unit, monitor student learning and use assessment results to improve individual practice, help teams achieve goals and intervene or extend on behalf of students.”
She also cites four critical questions that help guide SBISD staff:
- What do we expect students to know and be able to learn?
- How do we know they are learning it?
- How do we respond when they do not learn?
- How do we respond when they have already learned?
Mid-year Data Report Shows Continued Progress
Earlier this March, Spring Branch ISD released a mid-year data report that highlights student performance this year.
Highlights include the following:
- Current 5th graders: Since 3rd grade, the number of students reading above grade level at the start of the school year has more than doubled.
- Current 4th graders: Since 2nd grade, the number of students reading above grade level at the start of the school year has more than tripled.
- Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment noted that
- Students meeting or exceeding expected progress in reading and math improved in most grades in 2021-2022.
- Reading observed growth improved in most grades.
- Overall middle-of-year performance in the combined top three quintiles grew for students in grades 2 through 5 in both subjects.
- MAP reports provide data needed to make informed instructional and intervention decisions.
- The overall number of students reading at “approaching grade level or above” has increased from the beginning- to the middle-of-the-year.
- The percent of students measuring “at or above grade level” at the majority of SBISD campuses has increased.
- In K-2 Math Progress Monitoring:
- Middle-of-the-year performance shows a growth of 13-25 points among indicators at all three grade levels.
- Most campuses have maintained or increased the number of students on level from the beginning-of-the-year to the middle-of-the-year.
Craft notes that April and May are some of the busiest months of the school year, with teachers and campuses often extending learning opportunities to include before-school, after-school and Saturday sessions.
“We’ve been redoubling our efforts to help ensure students are prepared, especially for STAAR and AP testing that occurs in May,” she says.