Math Proficiency in Plano
The Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) is the standard used to measure Texas' education system. It primarily tests reading, math and writing from grades three through eight and again in high school. The passing score is 70. The Texas Education Agency says that you have to score at least an 80 in order to have a 75 percent chance of passing the public university entrance exam. You will be exempt from taking that entrance exam if you receive the proficiency score of 85 or above which would indicate a good command of the material at that grade level. Herein lies the truth for this saying: "You can pass the TAAS test and still need a Hubbell Telescope to even be able to see college."
With so many Plano schools having a high percentage of their students attaining passing scores, it is time that we evaluate ourselves using a higher standard. The focus should now be on the percentage of students attaining the proficiency score of 85% or above. Sadly, this study shows that Plano's results does not match its reputation.
The following analysis is possible due to the information posted on the Just for the Kids website (just4kids.org). Table 1a shows each school and each grade groups with their respective percentages of students attaining passing and proficiency scores. For ease of comparison, we adopted a letter rating system pegged to the percentage of student attaining proficiency score. I have similarly tabulated the results of neighboring districts as a basis for comparison and have duly summarized the rating distribution in Table 2. In the third grade Plano had 3 schools out of a total of 28 getting a letter grade of C and 4 schools getting a D. When you look at the number of schools getting a grade C and above, it is clear that Plano lags behind Richardson and Lewisville at every elementary grade level both in numbers and percentages. When we compare Plano with four suburban districts of Houston, the picture is equally bleak.
The website developed a list of the state's most successful schools over a three-year period from 1996-1998. Table 3 identifies the schools in this study which have consistently score above average proficiency ratings for mathematics at that grade level over a three-year period. Some districts have a relatively bad year in 1998 but still make it among the top schools because of their consistent performance. Garland's third grade had only one school scoring a better than D rating in 1998 - the worst among the nine districts. However, it has three schools listed among the top performers. Likewise, Katy and Cypress-Fairbanks also fared worse than Plano in the third grade results in 1998 but still have top performers. No matter how we look at this, Plano needs to do much better with the resources at our disposal.
To do well in algebra later, a strong foundation is necessary in the elementary years. If this is indicative of a trend, it should concern us that Plano kids may not be as well prepared for future challenges. If so many Plano elementary students cannot be proficient on an admittedly easy test of minimally required math skills, even Merlin cannot make up for those lost years later. I hope that this article and subsequent ones on reading and writing as well as secondary level performances would help to increase public awareness and help us set higher goals than just passing TAAS.