Students improve on TAKS science exam
Chronicle correspondent Helen Eriksen also contributed to this report.
Combine a talented and dedicated science team and hands-on projects with a desire to meet individual student needs and you have the right chemistry for success.
Most Katy High School students performed better on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills science test last year than they did in 2005 by at least 10 percent.
Eleven-year Katy High School biology teacher Dean Darrow said a number of programs have been implemented to improve student academic performance.
One of the best things that's been put together for us is the district hired an instruction coach who segregates all TAKS information to the point where we can pick any students we choose and how they did on previous TAKS, or the benchmark. We know which question they missed and got right," Darrow said.
The science team and administrators at the school attribute much of Katy's success to Colleen Dale, the school's academic instructional coach. Her background in science has enabled her to provide targeted steps for improvement, they said.
Dale, who organizes and interprets mounds of data, said her focus is on meeting the needs of every student, checking every question missed and examining every subpopulation to ensure improvement for each pupil.
We are shooting for 90 percent passing this year on the TAKS, and we think we are going to do it," she said.
I sort each question by TAKS objectives because you have to get down to what each kid needs," Dale said.
It allows us to zero in to reteach certain subject areas," Darrow said. We're teaching the kids to be successful on the test."
He said the school isn't teaching the TAKS test.
We're doing a better job of seeing where they have weaknesses going into the test and addressing them before they take the test," he said. I think it's been beneficial for the kids to go far beyond what's measured on the test."
The instruction coach shows teachers where they have done a good job and what needs to be done before students move on to the next level of science, Darrow said.
Katy High School stands out in the district for having a relatively high number of at-risk pupils including ethnic minorities and students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
For example, in 2008-09, the school had 64 percent white students and 36 percent African American, Hispanic, and Asian students combined. About 24 percent of the student population was considered economically disadvantaged, according to state data.
In 2009, of the 1,171 students taking the science test, 88 percent met state standards. That compares with 77 percent of the 1,231 students taking the test in 2005 who met the standard.
Most of the student subgroups also recorded double-digit percentage increases between 2005 and 2009: Hispanics improved from 60 percent to 76 percent; whites from 82 percent to 94 percent; and economically disadvantaged from 53 percent to 73 percent.
Students must pass exit-level tests in science, math, English language arts and social studies to graduate.
One of the things we started doing is to change the format of our quizzes and tests to make them more closely resemble the TAKS test," Darrow said. The (TAKS) test is extremely wordy and lengthy and the kids are kind of overwhelmed when they see it for the first time."
The school offers tutoring to students who previously failed the TAKS or didn't perform well on a benchmark test, he said, by bringing back a retired teacher to conduct pullout sessions.
Students also do TAKS warm-ups.
We take previous tests and go over those," Darrow said.
Leslie Stiles, who teaches PreAP chemistry, said students said it made them more confident when teachers pulled them out in small groups to provide extra help and encouragement.
Instructional Assistant Principal Alton Royer said the science teachers, who have worked really hard and put in long hours," meet regularly at the school as a team to map out strategies for student success.
Royer said the success on TAKS is being replicated on a broader scale. Katy High School students score consistently higher than Texas and nationally on the SAT and ACT tests, according to national statistics.
The school also has seen an increase in the number of students who take the rigorous Advanced Placement courses and exams for college credit, Royer said.
In 2008-09, students took 643 AP exams and that number will increase to 715 exams this year. There were 277 students who took AP tests last year compared to 292 students who will take tests this year. The increases were seen across the board in each category of race and gender.
The school has enjoyed achievement on other levels as well. The science program success helped earn science department chair Carol Rogers the distinction of Katy ISD's 2009 teacher of the year.
Under the guidance, of chemistry teacher Aimee Modic, Katy has won first place two years in the Regional Science Olympiad held in Galveston.
All students: 88 percent
African American: 70 percent
Hispanic: 76 percent
White: 94 percent
Economically Disadvantaged: 73 percent
*Percentage of students meeting standards
All students: 77 percent
African American: 63 percent
Hispanic: 60 percent
White: 82 percent
Economically Disadvantaged: 53 percent
* Percent of students meeting standards.
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