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TEA Correspondence

A Microsoft Word Version of this letter is available for download and PRINTING.


IMPORTANT INFORMATION:
PLANNING FOR 2003

December 5, 2001


TO THE EDUCATOR ADDRESSED:

In July 2000, each public school superintendent was sent a document detailing my decisions for accountability rating standards for 2001 and 2002. In that July document, I committed to providing planning reports to educators each year through 2003 that would contain a variety of analyses to assist in preparing for scheduled developments in assessment and accountability. This correspondence is the second in that series of planning reports.

The 2002-2003 school year will begin the process of change that will have a major impact on Texas public school education at every level. That year, third grade students will be subject to very personal consequences for unsatisfactory performance on the state assessment in reading. Beginning in 2003-2004, high school students in eleventh grade will also be required to pass the state assessments in English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies in order to graduate. Simultaneously, the rigor of those required assessments will be substantially increased. The three changes that are highlighted below represent significant increases in expectations for Texas public education:

• NEW STATE ASSESSMENT SYSTEM. Beginning in 2003, a new state assessment system, the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS), will be administered to students at grades 3 through 11. The new state assessments are expected to be more rigorous than the current Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) tests. This is because they are based on the more rigorous state-mandated curriculum (the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS) and because they are linked in difficulty to an exit-level testing requirement for graduation that incorporates higher expectations.
• TESTING REQUIREMENT FOR GRADUATION. As stated above, the testing requirements for graduation will increase and the exit-level test will be designed for the 11th grade. Unlike the current exit-level tests administered in 10th grade in reading, writing, and mathematics, the new grade 11 TAKS tests will assess English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies, and require knowledge of Algebra I and Geometry, Biology and integrated Chemistry and Physics, English III, early American and United States History, world geography, and world history. The class of 2005 (students who are 9th graders in 2001-02) will be the first class required to pass the new TAKS assessments in order to graduate. The first testing opportunity on the new exit-level assessments for these students will be in the spring semester of the 2003-04 school year, when they will be in 11th grade.
• STUDENT SUCCESS INITIATIVE. 2003 will also be the first year of implementation of the Student Success Initiative (SSI). Students in grade 3 that year must pass the state assessment in reading to be promoted without the consultation of a grade placement committee. Beginning in 2005, students in grade 5 must pass the state assessments in reading and mathematics to be promoted; beginning in 2008, students in grade 8 must pass the state assessments in reading and mathematics to be promoted.

REPORT FOCUS. These planning reports are designed to highlight areas of performance that may need strengthening in order for students to meet these new testing requirements. Future accountability ratings will be based on student performance results on these new assessments. However, the focus here is to provide schools and districts with additional ways of reviewing TAAS and End of Course (EOC) results to assist with the analysis of the skills and knowledge that students will need to meet the new TAKS testing requirements, especially those for graduation.

TIMING. Districts will receive these 2003 planning reports based on spring 2001 assessment results in two separate mailings. The test contractor transmitted the first mailing in May 2001. The second mailing is this December 2001 correspondence. Two additional mailings to school districts are scheduled in 2002 based on the spring 2002 assessment results. The first mailing will be sent to districts by the test contractor in May 2002. The second mailing, which will be similar to the enclosed report, will be provided later in 2002.

ENCLOSED REPORT CONTENT. The enclosed report, titled 2003 Early Indicator Report, December 2001, is generated for each district (one copy) and all campuses (two sets) that serve students in grades 7 and above. One campus set is for district use; the second set is to be distributed to each campus. Also enclosed is a state-level 2003 Early Indicator Report. The enclosed 2003 Early Indicator Report, December 2001 contains the following information:

2001 Grade 8 All TAAS Tests. This section shows the percent of 8th grade students taking and passing all five assessments — reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies — administered at that grade in the spring of 2001. This information is presented at two passing standards. The Early Indicator Reports sent by the test contractor in May 2001 provided student, campus, and district-level comparisons of 2001 TAAS results for grades 3 through 8 at the current student passing standard and a higher student passing standard. The current passing standard is a Texas Learning Index (TLI) of 70 or a scale score of 1500. The higher passing standard illustrates what the test results would have been had the passing standard been equivalent to 70% of the total items tested, instead of the current passing standard. The higher passing standard is provided for information purposes only and should be used solely as an early indicator of the increased level of performance that may be required to be successful on the new assessments. The State Board of Education will set the actual individual student passing standards for the new TAKS assessments in late 2002. Details on the definition of the higher standard are provided in an attachment to this correspondence, How to Use the 2003 Early Indicator Report (Provided by NCS Pearson).

Rationale: The students in 8th grade this past school year (2000-01) will be the first class of students required to pass the new exit-level examinations in order to graduate from high school. The percent passing all five tests at 8th grade (current passing standard and higher passing standard) provides an indication of how well students at this grade are being prepared for examinations in multiple subjects at higher grades. The higher student passing standard shows how each campus and school district would have performed had the TAAS passing standard been equivalent to a higher student passing standard, as would be expected on the new more rigorous tests to be administered beginning in 2003. These data should be useful as baselines for planning.

2001 Grade 8 TAAS By Subject. This section shows the percent of 8th grade students taking and passing each separate subject area — reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies — administered at that grade in the spring of 2001. This information was provided at the current student passing standard in the 2000-01 Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS) reports mailed to each superintendent and principal in October 2001. However, this information is also presented in this report at the higher passing standard described above.

Rationale: The students in 8th grade this past school year (2000-01) will be the first class of students required to pass the new TAKS exit-level examinations in order to graduate from high school. Examination of the percent of students passing by subject (current passing standard and higher passing standard) allows an analysis of strengths and weaknesses by subject.

* Cumulative End-of-Course Exam. This section shows the percent of last year’s 11th and 12th grade students who have taken and passed all four end-of-course examinations by the close of the 2000-01 school year. End-of-course examinations are administered in Algebra I, Biology, English II, and United States History.

Rationale: Because the knowledge and skills currently assessed on the four existing end-of-course examinations are required components of the new TAKS exit-level examinations, performance on all four end-of-course examinations is currently our best predictor of performance on the future 11th grade exit-level tests. However, it should be noted that the required content of the new exit-level assessments is broader and more rigorous than the content of the four end-of-course examinations.

* End-of-Course Exam (as shown on 2000-01 AEIS). This section shows the percent of students who passed each of the four end-of-course examinations during the 2000-01 school year. This information was also provided in 2000-01 AEIS reports mailed to each superintendent and principal in October 2001. In the AEIS reports, this information was labeled “Preview of 2003 Exit Level.”

Rationale: This is another measure of end-of-course examination performance that can be an indicator of the percent of students expected to pass exit-level tests, and thus be able to graduate. Examination of the percent of students passing by specific end-of-course examination allows an analysis of strengths and weaknesses by subject. Although not an exact predictor, this information should be useful as a baseline for planning.

* Class of 2000 Completion Rates (as shown on 2000-01 AEIS). This indicator shows the status of students after their expected graduation date. It is a longitudinal measure that tracks a cohort of students to determine their status four years after entering 9th grade. The components of this measure are percent graduating on time; percent continuing in public education after the expected graduation year; percent dropping out; and percent receiving a General Educational Development (GED) certificate by the expected graduation date. All of the components except percent dropping out represent measures of completing, or continuing in, school.

Rationale: In 2003, just as the state assessment system will enter another chapter with these new tests, so too will the accountability system enter its second phase with both new and modified performance indicators. Completion rates will become a part of this “Phase II” accountability system. Although the components to be included in the completion rate to be used for accountability purposes have not yet been determined, it is useful to focus on these data now in order to prepare for the future when this indicator will be evaluated for ratings purposes.

HOW TO USE THE REPORTS. All of this information is for your use in planning for the future. I urge you to examine the data provided and determine strengths and weaknesses of your current instructional program so that you can continue to adequately prepare students for the new, more rigorous graduation testing requirements, and make adjustments when necessary. As you examine the attached information, the magnitude of the task ahead of us becomes glaringly clear. We have the remainder of the 2002 school year and the 2003, and 2004 school years to make the curriculum and staff development adjustments needed before the first group of 11th graders is held to this new standard. Students failing one or more of the exit-level test sections will then have one more year to pass in order to graduate on time with their class. In addition to the December 2001 reports and associated glossary, a supplementary guide titled How to Use the 2003 Early Indicator Report (Provided by the Texas Education Agency) is enclosed that gives examples of how to evaluate the information in these preview reports.

STUDENT SUCCESS INITIATIVE. As stated previously, 2003 will be the first year of implementation of the Student Success Initiative (SSI). Students in grade 3 that year must pass the state assessment in reading to be promoted without the consultation of a grade placement committee. Districts can use the results from reading inventories given to students in grades 1 and 2 to plan for the implementation of the SSI. Because the results of these assessments are not in a form that can be reported back to districts by the agency, evaluating and targeting reading instruction must be a local effort. However, information provided in the 2003 Early Indicator Report mailing from the test contractor in May 2001 could also be used to prepare for the impact of the SSI. Grade 3 information was provided not only at the current passing standard, but also at the higher passing standard in this report.

Although the new assessment system and graduation requirements represent significant increases in expectations for our students, I am confident that educators will rise to these new challenges. The increases in student performance achieved over the last eight years are testimony to the ability of Texas educators to respond to past challenges. In 1994, the state average “all students” passing rates for non-special education students in TAAS mathematics, reading, and writing were 76.5%, 60.5%, and 79.0% respectively. By 2001, results for special education students and students tested in Spanish were also included in the evaluations and passing rates had risen to 90.2%, 88.9%, and 87.9%. Minority and economically disadvantaged students achieved the highest percentage point gains. The 11th graders in 2004 and beyond who meet these higher exit-level expectations will be the best-prepared young adults that Texas public schools have ever produced. Our future, as well as theirs, depends on their success. I have every confidence that we can meet the challenges ahead if we use our preparation time wisely.

Questions on the 2003 Early Indicator Report (Provided by the Texas Education Agency) may be directed to the Division of Performance Reporting at (512) 463-9704. Questions about the 2003 Early Indicator Report (Provided by NCS Pearson) should be directed to the Division of Student Assessment at (512) 463-9536.

Sincerely,

Jim Nelson
Commissioner of Education

Enclosures
2003 Early Indicator Report, December 2001 (State, District, and Campus-Levels)
Glossary for 2003 Early Indicator Report (Provided by the Texas Education Agency), December 2001
How to Use the 2003 Early Indicator Report (Provided by the Texas Education Agency)
How to Use the 2003 Early Indicator Report (Provided by NCS Pearson)

 



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