Austin eighth-graders test scores up slightly

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 1, 2000

Eighth-graders around the state were tested in February for their skills in reading and math.

Monday, May 01, 2000

Eighth-graders around the state were tested in February for their skills in reading and math. When results came back last week, Austin’s eighth-graders were testing a little lower than the state average.

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Of Austin Public School eighth-graders, 70 percent passed the Basic Standards Test for reading, and 67 percent passed the mathematics portion.

Of the approximately 66,000 public and charter school students tested statewide in February, 80 percent passed the reading exam and 71 percent passed the math portion. The 4,400 parochial school students posted passing rates of 92 percent and 83 percent, respectively.

For Austin’s students, there was a slight gain over last year – in 1999, 67 percent of students passed reading, and 64 percent passed math.

Ellis Middle School Principal Jean McDermott was pleased there had been some improvement, although she admitted she was somewhat disappointed it had not been greater.

"I had expected it might be a little bit higher than that," McDermott said.

As test results for individual students are returned to the school, they will be analyzed to see who among the test-takers were special education students, or English-as-a-second-language students.

"We’ll continue to look at our curriculum to see we need to introduce some things sooner," McDermott said.

James Hess, superintendent of Austin’s public schools, also noted there had been good progress in the reading portion the students retested – students who do not pass the tests in eighth grade are retested through their senior year until they do pass it. Retesting students were down in the math portion.

"We don’t yet have enough data on this to know why this happened," Hess said.

Although the Austin district gains seem small, compared to some districts that made larger leaps, Hess emphasized that with a district the size of Austin’s, 3 percent gains are significant.

To pass the reading test, students had to: identify the main idea of a passage; recognize supporting information; understand the meaning of words and phrases; grasp the author’s point of view; draw logical conclusions; and distinguish between fact and opinion.

For the math tests, students needed to solve problems involving fractions, decimals and ratios, and interpret graphics, tables and charts.

Associated Press reports were included in this story.