The Tyler Independent School District saw major changes at elementary and middle school campuses this year, but preliminary results from state-mandated testing show students maintained academic progress.
Thousands of Tyler ISD students attended different campuses as a result of a districtwide campus attendance rezoning initiative, the closure of Dogan Middle School and the shifting of Caldwell Arts Academy to a full arts magnet.
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Christy Hanson said preliminary results from the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness show that overall the district maintained improvements it saw last year and also saw areas of growth. Hanson said the data could change some as other factors, such as results from retests, are accounted for.
Hanson credits the results to a literacy push and increased teacher training on foundational skills, such as phonics.
“Overall we are pleased with the results,” she said. “We really do feel like there will be some celebrating.”
The only decreases in achievement were among third grade students, and the decreases were 3 percentage points or less, which the district deems statistically insignificant.
The third grade results were still an improvement over the 2016-17 school year, though.
Year-to-year comparisons going back further are difficult to assess due to changes in the state’s accountability system and the tests.
With the shifting of attendance zones, it is also difficult to assess year-to-year growth on a class level because in some cases a portion of students in a previous class were at a different campus this year.
The district uses Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP, testing throughout the year to track growth on an individual level. Teachers then adjust curriculum and intervention based on the results.
“With a lot of caution, we can track the true data if the test stays the same,” Hanson said. “When we teach the standards at the depth and complexity (necessary), the kids will do well.”
Fourth and seventh grade writing saw the biggest improvements at the district level.
Hanson pointed to improved reading scores in those grades as a reason writing improved.
“We know that if kids become better readers, they’ll become better writers,” she said.
Hanson said the district made the big changes it saw last year in order to put students in the best possible position to learn and grow.
With early childhood literacy remaining the district’s area of greatest need, administrators are hoping some big changes will improve those numbers over the next few years.
Master teachers and campus administrators have started training with the University of Houston’s Children’s Learning Centers to bring better phonetic teaching techniques to their campuses.
The district also recently decided to shutter its Head Start program in favor of districtwide full day pre-K. District officials believe the move will allow greater control of curriculum and the opportunity to bring in hundreds more students, who will be better equipped to start elementary school.
“What we want to do is give every student the opportunity to be an on grade level reader,” Hanson said.
At its June meeting, in which the district made the decision to shift from Head Start to pre-K, officials estimated that about half of the students who will enter kindergarten are currently enrolled in district Head Start or pre-K programs.
Previous newspaper coverage revealed End of Course STAAR results for high school students. John Tyler High School saw big improvements and Robert E. Lee High School maintained the level of results that earned the campus academic distinctions in the past accountability ratings.