Studies are helping to identify problem areas

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

Last week, Alice High School officials released a report detailing work of a campus team to improve the school's Academically Unacceptable rating.

The main focus of the analysis centered on the subgroup considered "economically disadvantaged" (ECD) at the school, whose performance on the TAKS test last year led to the unacceptable result.

Under math performance, only 36 percent of the ECD population met standard. That number translates to 168 students out of the 461 economically disadvantaged students at AHS.

Under science performance, which includes sophomore and junior ECD students, 34 percent, or 84 students, met standards last year. The total population in that group was 244 students.

The information within the economically disadvantaged subgroup was then broken down into small subgroups, such as gender, limited English proficiency, special education, migrant, at-risk, by ethnicity and other subgroups.

According to the report, many of the students considered ECD failed Algebra I during last school year.

For example, of the ECD sophomores, 27 percent, or 22 students, failed the first semester of Algebra I. For the second semester, 40 percent of students in the subgroup failed the subject.

Finally, the report also breaks down TAKS performance among ECD students by grade level and test objectives, showing the percent of student mastery.

Thirty-two percent of junior ECD students showed mastery in measurement and similarity on the TAKS test, and 34 percent showed mastery in geometric relationships and spatial reasoning.

In order to turn the situation around, AHS principal Berta Longoria said steps are already being taken, such as the use of CSCOPE curriculum in the classroom.

She said instructional initiatives such as the Kagan Cooperative Learning and Thinking Maps have been in place and will continue to be utilized.

Observations have taken place in math and science classrooms by both internal and external observers.

The high school has also tried to actively engage parents through activities such as Meet the Teacher Night, Monday Matters and monthly sessions of Fathers Active in Communities and Education.

The campus also has in place TAKS remediation classes as well as TAKS tutoring sessions.

Longoria said ongoing or upcoming curriculum activities include the STAR Intervention Period, which is an embedded 25-minute intervention period for teachers to work closely with students in the four core subject areas, as well as double block classes for mid-to-low-level achieving students in math and science.

There will be classroom walkthroughs by administration, department chairs and external observers and common planning periods are in place for teachers, who meet two days a week to discuss class preparations.