Consistent Statistical Anomalies in Reading Scores

I’ve been soliciting comments on my campaign site for ideas to improve the school district and have received about 150 so far. I’m analyzing them now for trends and will soon publish the results on my site. For now let me say that several parents have expressed concerns about lack of phonics training and poor reading abilities in elementary school that carry over into middle school.

This is certainly something worth looking into. The statistics indicate a problem, IMHO. If you look at Page 1 of the Texas Academic Performance Report for the Humble ISD in 2015-16, you will see average reading scores by state, district and grade level. We actually do better than the state average for grades 3 through 8. That’s good in a way, but the statewide statistics are, frankly, embarrassing.

TexAcademicPerformanceRptPg12015_16

The percentage of students who can’t read at grade level goes from 73% in third grade, to 76% in fourth, 81% in fifth, 71% in 6th, 72% in 7th and 88% in 8th. The District shows similar variance by grade level, but with slightly higher scores: from 3-8 they show 80%, 80%, 87%, 78%, 77% and 90%. The numbers become truly alarming when you look at the racial breakdowns: African-Americans go from 64% to 70% to 75%, 64%, 64%, and 84%. Hispanics go from 75% to 73%, to 83%, 72%, 71%, and back up to 87%.

The first thing you notice when you look at these statistics in tabular form is the roller-coaster nature of the scores. With large numbers of students, that’s a red flag. There are huge swings in every group just before they get to high school (between 7th and 8th grades)!

Statewide, there’s a 16% increase in people reading at grade level between 7th and 8th grades. District-wide, there’s a 13% increase; among African-Americans, a 20% increase; among Hispanics, a 16% increase. Why the sudden increases just before high school? Are that many kids getting that much better in such a short amount of time? Are the tests harder or easier from one year to the other? The only other hypothesis I can think of is that teachers are grading more leniently because there’s pressure to move kids on to high school.

Statistical anomalies like these always merit investigation. If elected, I would like to dig into this more thoroughly. I have three basic questions. Why are the reading scores so poor from grades 3-7? Why do they suddenly increase in 8th grade? And if the increase in 8th grade is real, why can’t we replicate it in grades 3-7? At a minimum, we need to increase reading scores in the lower grade levels. Good reading skills form the foundation for success in every other subject area and life in general.

New School Grading System Dings Humble ISD Schools on Post-Secondary Readiness

I first learned of the dismal “readiness” grades (KHS = C, KPHS = D, HUMBLE, ATASCOCITA and SUMMER CREEK = F) from this Houston Business Journal article. Scroll down through the list at the bottom of the page to find where our schools rank relative to others in the area.

I wrote the article’s author asking for an explanation of the grading system. He wrote back: “The Texas Education Agency’s new A-F school accountability system looks at a wide range of factors, including proficiency rates on standardized test scores, academic growth, closing achievement gaps between different student groups and college and career readiness. Kingwood High School scored an “A” on test scores, a “B” on academic growth and closing achievement gaps, and a “C’ on college and career readiness. Our story focused on college and career readiness, an issue of importance to our business readers.”

I then went to the Texas Education Agency Web site and found this explanation of the new grading system (see pdf below) on page 8. It tells how they compute the scores for “post-secondary readiness,” i.e., moving on to college, the military or the job market. Page B3 contains the cutoffs for each grade level (A-F). The actual grades for all Humble ISD campuses are on pages D-175 and D-176.

2015-16 A-F Ratings Report_fnl_2017

My opponent went to Austin two weeks ago to try to get the grading system changed. I feel we should be trying to improve the schools and the students, not changing the grading system.

As I started digging deeper into this, the reading statistics at the elementary school level appalled me. You can find them campus by campus on the TEA site.
Alternatively, the pdf below shows the figures for the ENTIRE Humble ISD. I’ve highlighted some stats for you. Pay particular attention to the 3rd grade reading scores on page one and the post-secondary readiness scores on page 3. About a third of African Americans, a quarter of Hispanics, and a tenth of Whites are reading below grade level.

HISD Achievement Scores

This is an issue we can no longer afford to ignore. And that’s why I’m making it a central issue in my campaign. Reading is fundamental to learning in every other subject. Kids who fall behind early in reading are handicapped for the rest of their lives and trapped in a cycle of poverty. The PDF below explains why. It is a booklet that my company put together for the Children’s Defense Fund and the American Leadership Forum.

ALFreport

A student not reading at his or her grade level by the end of the third grade is four times LESS likely to graduate high school on time (six times less likely for students from low-income families). A 2009 study by researchers at Northeastern University also found that high school dropouts were 63 times more likely to be incarcerated than college grads. Now you can start to see how important this is. The cost of juvenile incarceration in Texas is more than $67,000 per year. Yet we pay teachers just $50,000 per year. In the long run, if you look at this holistically, it would be more humanitarian and a lot cheaper to get kids mentoring or tutoring in the third grade. Even those individuals with the strongest moral compass can be compelled to do whatever it takes to survive. When we refuse to help them, our comfortable lives will be compromised by their desperation.

I wish we could start a genuine dialog about things that really matter.
– Why has the existing board allowed the reading problem to fester?
– Why are almost a quarter of ALL our students still reading below grade level in the seventh grade?

We’ve got to start addressing issues like these NOW! The longer we wait, the more they will cost taxpayers in the long run.

Campaign Flier

Below is a two-page PDF that you can print out and share with your friends. It explains a little bit about me, why I got in the race, and my positions. Rehak Flier

Don’t Donate to My Campaign

This advertorial contains my stance on political donations. Instead of helping my campaign, please donate to a worthy charity that will help teachers and students in our Title One schools.

Don’t Donate To My Campaign

ABC 13 Coverage

ABC 13 just did a segment on the school board campaign. See http://abc13.com/1789140/.

After Tom Abrahams left this morning, I visited an elementary school where 91% of the students come from economically disadvantaged families and 75% are at risk. It’s one thing to read about the problems of these schools. It’s another thing to experience them. All the more reason to donate to the wonderful people at HAAM and other worthy charities. They do so much to help these students and their families.

See http://abc13.com/1789140/.