Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

A Longitudinal Study of School Districts' Sustained Improvement

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

A Longitudinal Study of School Districts' Sustained Improvement

Article excerpt

Introduction

Few school districts have student success when their demographics are high poverty and diversity (Boyd, Lankford, Loeb, Rockoff, & Wyckoff, 2008; Foorman, Schatschneider, Eakikn, Fletcher, Moats, & Francis, 2006; Hannaway, 2005; Konstantopoulos, & Borman, 2011; Muller, Riegle-Crumb, Schiller, Wilkinson, & Frank, 2010; Perry, & McConney, 2010). Yet, the demands for higher accountability in student performance are increased because of adequately year progress at the federal level and mandated testing at the state level (Darling-Hammond, 2004; Meier, Cohen, & Rogers, 2000; Ravitch, 2000; Ravitch, 2010). Therefore, school district leaders must understand their student achievement data and use that data if they are to stand any chance for school improvement despite an increase in student demographics of increased poverty and higher diversity (Dessoff, 2011; Hatchett, 2010; Hyslop, 2011; Marsh, Pane, & Hamilton, 2006). Mastery for student success in this accountability era has been supported as a method for students' mastery of identified state standards (Jennings, 1998; Priddy, 2007; Scheurich & Skrla, 2000).

Literature Review

Standardized testing and evaluation of school reform models have minimally guided research studies of school district improvement over time. The review of literature for this study includes the history of standardized testing in Texas, and Texas student achievement data (Priddy, 2007; Waldrip, 2008). One researcher examined the practices of high school administrators to determine the impact on standardized testing and found two variables that positively correlated with higher student performance. These two administrators' practices were targeted teacher professional development on the test and the use of resources from the regional service centers. Another researcher examined the rating system in Texas for high schools to determine which variables predicted the rating (Waldrip, 2008). He found that high school math remediation was the most predictive of the campus accountability rating. Interestingly, he further determined that several variables were not predictive of the campus rating at the high school. These variables were student SAT scores, teachers' years of experience, and percentage of student poverty at the campus.

History of Standardized Testing in Texas

In the state of Texas, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) developed and has required for many years the collection and publication of student level data at the campus and school district level. Texas formally began this implementation of accountability tests in 1979 when the state legislators passed a bill that required the testing at three grade levels. This first assessment was called Texas Assessment of Basic Skills (TABS) and tested math, reading and writing. The state test in Texas changed in 1985 to the Texas Educational Assessment of Minimum Skills (TEAMS). This test also included math, reading, and writing, but increased the grades tested from three grades to six grades. According to the TEA website of archived data, data are available for 1988-1990 as the TEAMS test. The state test in Texas was changed again in 1990 and became known as the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS). This test continued to test math, reading, and writing, but decreased the grades assessed from six grades to five grades. However, the TAAS test was meant to measure higher order thinking and problem-solving skills. The TAAS test was used in Texas from 1990-2002. During 1980 to 2002, the state used a rating system of exemplary, recognized, acceptable, and low performing for districts. According to the TEA (1999), districts received exemplary if 90 percent of their students passed the state test at the state identified level of passage. Recognized was 80 percent of the students while acceptable was 40 percent of the students. A low performing rating was given to districts with less than 40 percent of their students passing the state tests. …

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